When Did Recreational Drugs Emerge
We think of recreational drugs as being a phenomenon that has emerged releatively recently. However, the use of drugs, other than medicinal purposes, has existed from antiquity. The purpose was sometimes not only for enjoyment but also integrated with religious practice. The mix of various pleasures with drug use has also been a consistent pattern across time.
Early Use of Recreational Drugs
The use of drugs such as opium likely originates from prehistoric periods, although direct evidence is still entirely clear. Remains from Central Asia and across parts of Eurasia suggest plant residues that resemble cannabis have been found on braziers. In fact, the origin of marijuana comes from Central Asia and it liked reached the Near East and Europe in th Neolithic due to migrations of populations such as the Yamnaya. Some early evidence for recreational drug use come from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Syria and Iraq) and Egypt. At Ebla, in modern western Syria, a kitchen was found in a palace from the mid 3rd millennium BCE, where the ceramics were analyzed and found to contain traces of opium. However, opium is native to Central Asia, which suggests the plants may have been traded for or attempts at local cultivation was practiced. It is possible there were many uses for both opium and marijuna in its early use. For instance, both plants can be made into other materials such as rope. Both plants also have medicinal qualities. Nevertheless, some have suggested the evidence for seemingly large-scale production at Ebla may suggest more recreational usage.
In Egypt, one popular drug was the blue water lotus, where it has hallucinogenic qualities and was known to havve been consumed with wine. In fact, paintings of drunken festivals with descriptions and depictions of likely orgies suggest that it was ingested for recreational use. However, recreational use may have also been part of worship ritual, as descriptions of the use of the blue lotus have been found at Karnak, the site of Egypt's most holy temple.