Animals like Hallucinogens—Really?

Even beings who do not make ontological arguments appear to enjoy the same reality changing medicines. We’ll say medicine because it is used to allay something called idiopathic ennui, a condition that affects most humans and, apparently, other animals.  Getting away to the mountains may be the equivalent of taking a short trip on an analysts couch.  If you don’t have an analyst I think there’s a hot tip on a still legal lichen below. -carlos

The animal world has its junkies too

Fri, 17/12/2010 – 07:07
By Andrew Haynes

Reindeer seeking the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom (Naomi Woods |

Andrew Haynes kicks off 2010’s Christmas miscellany with reports of rampant reindeer, sozzled starlings and junkie monkeys, and a look at how goats seem to be the cause of many of man’s sins

Research scientists have used many animal species in investigating mind-altering drugs, but it may come as a surprise to learn that animals in the wild — from starlings to reindeer — also make use of psychoactive substances of their own accord.

It seems that many of these species have a natural desire to experience altered states of consciousness, and man may well have found his way to some of his favourite recreational drugs by observing the behaviour of animals.

Rampant reindeer

In their use of hallucinogenic plants is where animals really go to town. There is evidence from around the world of animals deliberately consuming such plants, and legends about plants used in sacred rituals often include references to animals introducing them to mankind.

One such species, appropriately for a Christmassy article, is the reindeer, which goes to great lengths to search out the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) — the one with the white-spotted red cap that garden gnomes like to sit on. Eating the toadstool makes reindeer behave in a drunken fashion, running about aimlessly and making strange noises. Head-twitching is also common.

Fly agaric is found across the northern hemisphere and has long been used by mankind for its psychotropic properties. But its use can be dangerous because it also contains toxic substances. Reindeer seem to metabolise these toxic elements without harm, while the main psychoactive constituents remain unmetabolised and are excreted in the urine. Reindeer herders in Europe and Asia long ago learnt to collect the reindeer urine for use as a comparatively safe source of the hallucinogen.

Another hallucinogen used by wild animals is the African plant iboga (Tabernanthe iboga). It has been reported from Gabon and the Congo that boars, porcupines, gorillas and mandrills will dig up and eat the powerfully hallucinogenic roots.

In the Canadian Rockies, wild bighorn sheep are said to take great risks to get at a rare psychoactive lichen. In scraping it off the rock surface they can wear their teeth down to the gums.

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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1 Response to Animals like Hallucinogens—Really?

  1. Temet Nosce says:

    I find the idea of other mammals getting stoned out of their minds to be…..awesome! That is very sad about the sheep, though.

    Stories like this remind me of how close we are to the rest of the natural world. We are so apt to forget that when we’re surrounded by high technology.

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