There is evidence that we humans have made use of psychotropic or ‘mind-altering’ substances since prehistory, and some form of such uses appears in virtually every society on Earth. Today, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are readily obtainable throughout most of the world. Some communities use other substances, such as kava, a type of shrub, the roots of which are brewed on many islands of the Pacific to make a drink that contains several psychoactive ingredients. In the past, indigenous peoples of the Americas extracted mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug believed to produce spiritual experiences, from different kinds of cactus. Archaeologists have found that leaves of the coca plant, the source of cocaine, were used in Peru up to 10,000 years ago (Dillehay et al., 2010). There is even a claim that the Neolithic revolution, the momentous change from nomadic to settled lifestyles and the development of agriculture, was spurred by a desire not to bake bread but to brew beer (Braidwood et al., 1953).
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