They seek out hallucinogenic plants and fermented fruit
Humans aren’t the only animals who like to take recreational drugs. From goats to gorillas and birds to boars, scores of species have been observed getting high or intoxicated.
Some of this has been documented in a new book by David Linden: The Compass of Pleasure– How our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good.
In the following excerpt, the author describes how many different animals use drugs recreationally:
Birds, elephants, and monkeys have all been reported to enthusiastically seek out fruits and berries that have fallen to the ground and undergone natural fermentation to produce alcohol.
In Gabon, which lies in the western equatorial region of Africa, boars, elephants, porcupines, and gorillas have all been reported to consume the intoxicating, hallucinogenic iboga plant. There is even some evidence that young elephants learn to eat iboga from observing the actions of their elders in the social group.
In the highlands of Ethiopia, goats cut the middleman out of the Starbucks business model by munching wild coffee berries and catching a caffeine buzz.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of nonnutritive animal intoxication is found among domesticated reindeer. The Chuckchee people of Siberia, who are reindeer herders, consume the bright red hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria as a ritual sacrament. Their reindeer also indulge. Having discovered the mushrooms growing wild under the birch trees, they gobble them up and then stagger around in a disoriented state, twitching their heads repeatedly as they wander off from the rest of the herd for hours at a time.
All this begs the question: Why is the use of psychoactive drugs so widespread? For simple pleasure? For brief spurts of energy? To reduce anxiety and foster relaxation and forgetting of one’s troubles? To excuse behavior that would not otherwise be socially tolerated? To stimulate creativity and explore new forms of perception? To augment ritual practice?
The answer, of course, is all of the above.