It’s thought that the essential difference between humans and animals is the ability to self reflect, but every day we are discovering more and more about the high levels of intuition and understanding that animals have.
Animals have found all sorts of ways to seek out altered states that us humans have never even thought of. Alone or in groups, humans aren’t the only ones who like to get loose at the weekends.
With a diet usually entirely made of fruit, biologists have discovered that Black Lemurs in Madagascar have been seeking out giant red millipedes. They take a gentle bit to spray out it’s toxins and then rub its poisons all over their fur. When millipedes feel under threat they secrete benzoquinone toxins (that are non-dangerous to lemurs) which repels malaria carrying insects like mosquitos but also gets them fairly intoxicated, entering them into a blissful, peaceful and sleepy state.
Yep, dolphins are also at it, this time with pufferfish! The pufferfish contains a deadly poison, so deadly that if a human ingests it there is a 100% fatality rate. One pufferfish contains enough tetrodotoxin to kill 30 adult humans. Bottlenose Dolphins however, have figured out how to get just the right amount to have a narcotic effect and they absolutely love it! They’ve learnt to chew on the fish gently and pass it round to their fellow dolphins (not dissimilar to a spliff) releasing just the right amount of substance to enter into a pufferfish trance. Don’t believe us, well it was recorded for the first time not so long ago, and you can check it out here.
Perhaps one of the most mainstream recreational “drug” for pets is catnip, which makes cats roll around in pleasure, go wide-eyed and purr; they can’t get enough! Perhaps less widely know is that this herb is also super relaxing for us humans too.
Although you’re unlikely to be writhing in pleasure on the floor, it makes a pretty relaxing tea, which is really useful for helping you get to sleep, reducing tension, soothing coughs and has even been known to treat hives. It doesn’t seem to do much for Dogs though, those crazy canines take it a little further and have been known to lick cane toads. This causes increased salivation for them, makes them really excitable and is thought to even cause hallucination.
In parts of Guinea in West Africa, humans and chimpanzees actually co-exist. Palm wine is common culture there and chimpanzees are known to steal the wine to get drunk. They even make a tool out of leaves that people call a “leaf sponge” to help them dr
ink it. One night a male chimp was recorded getting drunk
off the palm wine and pestering his fellow female chimps, trying to get frisky for the night.
And who knew that wallabies like opium? There is a special type of albino wallaby in Australia called “Bennetts Wallabies” who go into farmers poppy fields, get high as a kite and jump around in circles creating “crop circles”. Those wallabies sure know how to party.
The plant traditionally used in ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru is also enjoyed by jaguars. It is a hallucinogenic which causes playful, kittenish behaviour amongst the wild cats. In fact some experts think this is how humans learnt to use the plant, by watching jaguars feel good on it.
Narcotic lichen takes decades to grow over very hard to reach places in the rockies. Bighorn sheep risk their lives to scrape this narcotic growth off of rocks with their teeth, even though it has no nutritional value. Reindeer also like to get a little trippy too. The reindeer in Siberia love eating amanita muscaria, a psychedelic mushroom that gets people bamboozled. Shamans in the region noticed this and used reindeer urine to get trippy themselves, without the toxic effect of the mushrooms.
So its safe to say all us mammals have a natural affinity with seeking pleasure and getting intoxicated, be it alcohol a natural herb or even an insect. Dolphins like us are super social and fleet between pods, all with their own unique whistle they use to communicate and have a laugh essentially. They’ve even been spotted riding waves together as a way of social bonding. Guess we’re not so different after all.