Ancient Drugs

Drugs  -   54 Comments

Ancient DrugsJoin Dr. Andrew Weil and other leading physicians and scholars in this often-surprising look at the long history of drug use in different cultures worldwide.

Since mankind’s beginning, in every civilization, human beings have found ways to alter their consciousness in search of something greater than everyday reality.

To this end, we have indulged in and experimented with all manner of frightening, toxic, even potentially lethal substances, in many different rituals.

Ancient Drugs delves into mankind’s psyche in search of the key to our pervasive drive to experience something beyond. Psychologists and physicians, including Dr. Andrew Weil, world-famous author of the bestselling Spontaneous Healing, offer insight into the physical and mental mechanisms and motivations behind this universal desire.

Historians and spiritualists explore the ancient rituals of cultures worldwide that have sought visions and truth through altered consciousness, and illuminate the terrifying, exquisite visions that are revealed to those who journey beyond the constraints of the conscious mind.

Ratings: 6.58/10from 26 users.

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54 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jonathan Ozaez

    "Prohibitions, the lines that throughout history have been drawn around bottles and behaviors, powders and plants, are tools of power. The drive toward sexual pleasure; the urge to temporarily escape day-to-day consciousness through intoxication; the questioning of the value of one’s existence, particularly when it seems too painful to endure -all are part of what it means to be human. The way we address these powerful and primary questions of identity defines our individuality. By circumscribing them with taboos and prohibitive laws, society denies its members self-knowledge and allocates itself punitive power over sexuality, consciousness, and self-determination -the most intimate domains of individuality.

    It was not for nothing that Islam was built on prohibition against wine and gambling, and just about every major faith on proscribing certain types of sexual pleasure. Nor should it be seen as an accident that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the archetypal humans were warned to stay away from forbidden fruit: the absurdity of picking a harmless apple (though it may well have been a pear, a fig or a pomegranate) says a lot about how power likes to assert itself through arbitrary prohibitions. It was the serpent, the tempter to knowledge, who invited humans to their first picnic. As Mark Twain put it : “Adam was but human -this explains it all. he did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.”

    1. Leo

      Very odd that you think that God prohibited Adam and Even from picking an apple. Where did you read it was an apple?
      Would you not warn your own children against something bad? Would you not warn your children not to even try cocaine or heroine?
      Adam's sin was not eating a forbidden fruit, it was disobedience to God as King and Father, because he chose to heed the voice of his wife rather than obey God. God, who loves us, warns us of what will destroy us. He is also a Father to be honored with obedience. He is absolutely holy and good, and there is no darkness in Him at all.

  2. tom schnee

    i get high in search for enlightenment and a higher state of learning and understanding.

    1. Bobcatbob Ingram

      Well enlightenment is available ...but I dislike being God Sunday evening then Monday morning I still have to take out the trash...
      If that has been happening to You, fear not, its part of the package we call, 'our life'.

  3. bud oracle

    The prohibitionists are always bust at revision. "Soma disappeared because it was being used recreationally." 'The priests kept it away from the partiers. What a friggen crock

  4. Space Cat

    Woodenhead, you can't just state one of your opinions and expect it to be true for all people in the present, and across the ages. Just like today, some people "do drugs" for thrills and to "get high", others out of curiosity, and others still with intellectual, spiritual, or other intentions. When I first tripped psilocybin mushrooms I was curios, but most of all I sought some deep spiritual connection. Yes I can feel this in every day consciousness, but there is nothing wrong with exploring it further with what is provided by our strange world. I'm sure some ancients were seeking a high, while others wandered the strange world of chemically induced awareness with personal and collective spiritual purpose. Psilocybin is as poisonous as it is in the eyes of the beholder. To some, the nausea and overwhelming feelings causes them distress, to others these are just part of the experience. (Also, soma could very well be the combination of the MAO inhibitor, Syrian rue, and a strain of psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin is after all a form of phosphoralized dimethyltriptamine.)

  5. palm jumeirah

    This is a fantastic blog I`ve recently been looking all over the web for good information such as this

  6. woodenhead

    What you are all failing to realize is most ancients, shaman or whatever were probably just doing what most of us were doing (If we are honest).
    That is "not" trying to elevate a level of consciousness but were simply getting high.
    Sure we got some by-product level of awareness but seriously, it's easy now that we are older to say we were experimenting with levels of consciousness.
    I discovered psycho-delics like most people do, as a young person trying to change the way i felt in the world. It just happened that where i lived Gold Top Mushrooms were abundant so we took them and we tripped balls.
    Laughed a lot and then hallucinated for 10 hours. Some of the visions were awesome and some were scary but we always knew we were "Just Trippin".
    Only later as an Adult did i learn that i was poisoning myself with (psyilicybin )
    need to check spelling on that one. I was not raising awareness, nor chasing spiritual advancement. Just a kid getting high with his friends, smoking dope, taking trips and trying just about anything that came along including Heroin. Sounds to me like Soma (If there was such a drug) is probably Opium.
    Any way I doubt many of you actually sat down and purposefully took these substances and were aware enough to gain any level of understanding. Unless like the girl heather who had a controlled test with pure L.S.D.
    Most street trips (Unless you were lucky enough to be in San Francisco In the Late 60's) are a low dose, and mixed of all sorts of other shit, usually stimulants.

  7. Mike Vincent

    This is rubbish and pseudo science

    1. Justin Nobles

      funny, how now, real scientific studies show psyilocybin is actually beneficial to brain growth and synapse connections. just because modern science hasn't proven something to be true doesn't mean its "pesudoscience".

  8. Ivan Lew

    I have gone through similar experience through entheogens. Mine is 'ketamine'. What I can say is that I came to the path of spritualism through 'medication' instead of 'meditation'. All I can say is whatever or however or whichever path we come from I have been 'touch'. And my journey is I have been able to touch others through my experience. I agree that unless it is referenced to ancient texts of wisdom which of past experience it means nothing. This knowledge is powerfull- with great wisdom/knowledge comes great power, with great power comes great responsibility. But so far my path is single and alone am is still searching. I know others are with me in this path. I am now trying to reach others and share if possible.

  9. Michael Hoevenaar

    uh soma = fly ageric which contains n,n-dimethyltryptamine in the cap skin

    1. epsilon velon

      fly agaric is eolic acid and muscerin. Even if you where mentioning cubensis the chemical is still omega-4-HO-DMT and 4-HO-DMT. Nice try though.

    2. Andrew Gallimore

      Fly agaric contains ibotenic acid and muscarine. And in cubensis it's 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocyin) and 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocin). Nice try though.

  10. beauregard

    This doc is poor on ancient history, but good on modern. And the comments near the end are insightful.

  11. JM

    @Mindaugas If you haven't tried psychedelics like LSD, shrooms, or DMT then you have no authority to speak about their value for spiritual uses. Your experience with alcohol, coffee and even cannabis just doesn't count.

    1. candyflippin


  12. Heather

    I have parteken in LSD 'therapy', and when everyone with me was scared at the sensation, I felt strangely normal. At home completely in that state.
    I think it has only made me stronger as I went into life. Where has my wonderful molecule gone? Though I can't find my old friend anymore, those journeys will be with me always to draw upon as life throws the curveballs. Funniest part is, if you saw me, you'd never peg me as a 'tripper'. You'd think I belong on Wall Street, but the lessons of Leary & McKenna, et al, are my unwavering foundation. Silly, right?
    But why do we have the receptors in our brains if they aren't there to RECEIVE these wonders Earth has given us? :)

    1. candyflippin

      I saw your old friend hangin out on Front St. by the bread store. He's got a mole on his left ear and wears gold Nikes with overalls. Just ask him "have you seen my dog, had a red bow, about yea big"

      I got your back homie ;)

  13. toddy

    as for myself i have partaked of ming altering substances quite a few times and i felt that taken with respect to them they can be really useful for delving into the inner realms of the mind. For a few this can be very frightning to them to see their darkest fears come to life, but can be joyful also. But by facing our fears we can come to terms with them. Like the old hippie addage set and setting plays a role into the experience. The one that has worked for me is a very natural enviroment such as the forest or nice park as far away from crowds of people as possible). I quess i'm trying to say is respect the substance you're about to ingest and try not to abuse it then it loses all meaning.

  14. bert

    Sadly it is part of our culture to consume, always we want more and more, bigger and better!

    Give these people a powerfull drug that gives a nice high, what do you expect?

    War on drugs is a failure!

  15. cup

    It's they're not

  16. TomazZzz


    and I thought I halucinated :o

  17. Ayahuascan


    Hey buddy if you don't wanna watch it don't. This site is great and your a whiner

    Thanks Vlatko I love the site

  18. Mindaugas

    You can not be 100% sure of anything, but you can try getting to it as close as possible by: 1) getting information from external sources, 2) verifying it through your own experience.

    I also experimented quite a lot with MJ and found it useful in some ways. Like for you, it was an amazing way to explore my mind and put things into broader perspective. But after couple of years I realised, there was almost nothing left to explore. I was stuck in a loop repeating the same experiences over and over again. While I felt there was A LOT more to see, MJ just could not bring me there. Wanted to try LSD or shrooms, but for some reasons it did not happen.
    At the same time I was into Zen meditation practices, so I was able to compare. I found out that these two did not mix well. It was not possible to meditate while being high, because my mind would just wander uncontrollably. Also, could not meditate the next day, because the mind would be too dull or 'muddy'. Contrary, meditation when done properly would calm the mind and bring much deeper, clearer feeling of peace and happiness. Later I found, that mantra meditation was even more effective.
    Based on this experience I came to the conclusion, that:
    1) 'consciousness elevation' through MJ and 'nirvana' (did not experience that, but at least got a slight glimpse) where two TOTALLY different things,
    2) these two did not mix well. If I wanted to dive more deeply into meditation practices, any intoxicants, would it be MJ, alcohol, or even coffee, was becoming an obstacle.

    I also noticed that there were LOTS of people, who managed to improve their lives by natural or 'clean' ways. On the other side, I was not so sure about 'psyhonauts'.
    So I chose my way. It is up to you to choose yours, Corey :)
    Best wishes!

  19. Ubik

    ok yes. you see, the whole point of this doc is to emphasize on sacredness, not psychedelics. u dont see any difference?

  20. boz

    how is this a top doc?, its histry channel ffs

  21. Mantram

    or in better words...

    I think DMT is the best way to spiritual growth of all psychedelics! : D

  22. nigel

    good doc. Mr majestik could i get in contact with u by e mail please. Very interesting.

  23. Dinesh Kampani

    India was never invaded by any race called "Aryans". Please do not use a widely controversial racist theory as truth. Current science and archeology do not find any trace of truth in the 'Aryan Invasion Theory' of India.

    It is time for the world to stop endorsing an intentional distortion of India's history.

  24. JustSayGrow

    Apologies, that was a rather blanketing and offensive statement.
    I do so become enraged by the prohibitionist machine and its entrails.

    Some of the most creative minds were savvy to natural intoxicants. Shakespeare for instance, liked his cannabis but it should not be forgotten that he was also a crackhead. Lewis Carrol - Alice in tell me.

    Only on occasion, and only in natural environments, has the ingestion of natural hallucinogens ever heightened my spiritual awareness. But it did do that (for me). Like any awareness, once you have it, you can't just forget it. LSD on the other hand, was a lot of fun but in retrospect, not worth the costs (for me).

    Again, apologies for the prior outburst

  25. JustSayGrow

    "dope !!!"

    This word was villianized by amerigun prohibitionists in the 20th century. To carelessly use it in context here (anywhere for that matter) only lends power to their campaign of ignorance and oppression. Having perused the whole thread on this documentary, easily, I rest my case.

  26. Skye-hook

    @Leonardo- your level of consciousness is showing, dude.

  27. 420 Vision

    Anyone who uses drugs to seek the superconsciousness simply has not found or refuses to use what is naturally within them to find enlightnement.

    all you need is all within you.

  28. Imightberiding

    @Mr. Majestik

    I'm drawing a blank right now as to his name but remember that major league baseball player that pitched a perfect no-hitter while ripped on LSD? It's probably all he's famous for now but man he must have been tuned in that game.

    Don't forget to breath my friend.

  29. Imightberiding

    @Ants on a Plane re:btw

    Dude is on drugs man, chill.

  30. Imightberiding

    Far out man! Thanks for adding this doc Vlatko. I still remember as a kid all of us believing that Coca Cola had cocaine in it at the time. Makes me laugh with the memories.

    For any one interested, Wade Davis, one of the Phd's consulted & shown in a couple of interviews for this film ( sort of middle towards the end, maybe part 4 ) wrote a book several years ago called The Serpent & The Rainbow. It's quite a good read about the drug/intoxicant that makes zombies in countries like Haiti. Yes I said zombies. Check it out, it was even made into a fairly good movie in the 80's where the main character/protagonist portrays Wade's real life experiences as he searches/researches lesser known drugs & plants in different jungles & countries as a researcher for big drug companies. The movie focuses on Haiti & it's rumored zombies. It was produced as a thriller but Wade Davis maintains that it was based on actual events. I had the honour of meeting him briefly & I can say he is widely respected in the medical/scientific communities here in Canada. The book was good, the movie fun/scary if not a bit quirky.

    I assure you all I have no interest financial or otherwise in the book or film. They are just worth a look for curious minds.

  31. Ants on a Plane

    @btw- ''the guy is called Hofmann – one f, two m''

    Irony.. at it's best..

  32. Another viewer

    Good and interesting piece

  33. debs

    escaping life is good. life blows. documentaries and drugs are good.

  34. Thuckey

    Interesting but found it kind of boring. I found all the people they interviewed to be pretty annoying for some reason, all in all worth the watch though.

  35. btw

    btw - it's very funny 90% of his devotees spell him wrong and have no clue their doing it - the guy is called Hofmann - one f, two m - nothing to do with the Hoff :)

  36. Ez

    @ Mr. Majestik

    Hit me at this email man, please ez2b12 at centurylink dot net. We need to talk my friend, yes we need to talk. Waiting for that email.

  37. Mr. Majestik

    Love it!!! Need some LSD therapy right now! Beautiful drug and experience, if you don't understand this you don't understand! Not encouraging universal use but should be respected and allowed if you can pass a mental fitness test... Leary was right but it was unfortunate that he didn't set expectations and standards for those entering the psychedelic cosmos.

    Thank you Dr. Hoffman! I love you man!

  38. zol

    The culture is what counts.
    You can't fix culture or yourself with drugs.
    And ritual usage doesn't imply that a culture or religion has any value.

    Perspective-altering experiences can be enlightening only if you resist settling with magical thinking and apply them holistically with ordinary experience and realities.

  39. Leonardo

    My experience meeting people that enjoy halucinogenics regularly varied tremendously, but most tended towards the over spiritualization of everything. I call them super hippies.

    Whether they were on DMT, mushrooms or peyote....I know people that swear they can control where cars go, turn green traffic lights red and other funny things like not sleeping for 2 weeks.

    Still, I rather like it, for I remember quite vividly falling into a huge crater on the road taking me to the center of the universe, where there was a huge clown with its mouth open. I escaped, thankfully, using my indiana jones style whip, by activating it and snapping it to the clown's amigdala. It was not over, for I had to fight those monster tooth cavity beings.... they were very mean.


  40. Cat

    \thks for the view, on sat i will join the native tribe of the Colombian amazones called Taitas to participate in the \yaje ceremony, it's out of this world.
    Great site

  41. keeb

    i agree with reasons, that most in the united states have no concept of what the drugs can be used for or should be used for, and that most shamen and ancient peoples that took the drugs for religious or healing reasons or have the respect for the drug.

  42. SimonTheSorcerer

    I know most people gonna IGNORE ME and hate me for it but WOW part 2 7:00 and before I totally agree I live in Aquincum (roman Border post in Hungary ) and I have seen myself the cave of Mithras , the Temple of Dionysus and and yeah I have no doubt these guys did drugs I don't doubt it and it can be constructive.

  43. Reasons Voice

    Saw this doc years back. I still enjoy it and it's perspective. @Mindaugas; Perhapse all of the art work and scriptural writings depicting intoxicant usage could maybe be considdered as an indication. You have missed the point. They are not saying that ancient shamen were getting blitzed off the rails daily. Just that occasional usage was know to happen for enlightening expiriences. Back in days long ago, a much younger and bolder me took a 3 day expedition into mescalin via the peyote cactus. I can tell you now that from my perspective the connection between spiritualism and halucinogen use is beyond plausable. I can also attest to the ending statements in this film. That it is the misuses of these natural substances that lead to addiction and negative outcome. I have not even considdered using any drugs and rarely even drink to this day. When I did that back then I went into the woods wiith a group of friends. The trip was well planned and provisioned and we all remained safe, sane, and secure for the duration.

  44. insomniac


    I'm sure we'd all love it if there was a way to quantify and measure precisely how people used to live, but sadly history today remains very speculative.

    "Austerity, prayer, meditation were the means used to elevate your consciousness to higher, spiritual reality in all advanced cultures. Not intoxicants."

    That is a great example of what speculation is, thanks for adding it.

  45. Mindaugas

    "Although, we do not have any evidence, we think that.. (blah, blah, blah)". Is this thing they call "science" these days?

    Austerity, prayer, meditation were the means used to elevate your consciousness to higher, spiritual reality in all advanced cultures. Not intoxicants.

  46. esmuziq

    dope !!!

  47. Samusakis

    I am thankful to Vlatko for adding this, thank you!