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augustlan's avatar

Do animals in the wild ever become addicted to natural mind-altering substances?

Asked by augustlan (46646 points ) April 9th, 2012

Human beings have probably always used (and abused?) drugs, starting with natural plants / fungi. Do other animals do the same, when left to their own devices? Can they get addicted to ‘drugs’ the way we do?

Note: I know that lab animals can become addicted. This question is about their ‘wild’ counterparts, and their own natural behavior.

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14 Answers

SmashTheState's avatar

Terence McKenna theorized that consciousness in primates arose from habitual use of psychedelic mushrooms leading to abstract thought, the same way it does in humans.

(To forestall anyone from posting the 1974 video of animals getting drunk from fermented marula fruit, this has been confirmed as a hoax.)

whitecarnations's avatar

According to this website yes

Although some of the animals stated are domesticated there were a couple animals that actually were wild.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t know if they get addicted but I think that a catbird once crashed into my window because it was drunk, on fermented berries, maybe. I heard this really loud thump on my living room window and when I went out to investigate I found an unconscious catbird lying on the ground. I call the local bird rescue and asked them what to do and they told me just to keep an eye on it because sometimes they knock themselves unconscious and then just come out of it. So I put the bird in a shoe box and when it started to come to it perched and teetered on the edge of the shoe box and it pooped purple poop. Berry poop. I have no real evidence.

Anyway, the bird slowly came back, left the shoe box and spent some time recovering, under my truck in the driveway, where I kept an eye on it so the cats didn’t get to it in it’s vulnerable state. It all ended well but I still think the bird may have been drunk, from fermented berries, but that is just speculation on my part.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I saw a lot of really happy cows standing around looking stoned in fields of opium poppies in asia. lol Now there’s some milk for you, opiated milk. lol

LostInParadise's avatar

I found this article Note the interesting theory for the origin of Santa Claus and flying reindeer

wilma's avatar

My cat seems to get pretty high on catnip.

Ponderer983's avatar

@wilma And Scooby Doo on Scooby Snacks

laureth's avatar

Here’s a story about a drunk elk stuck in a tree, eating fermented apples.

NYT confirmsA large variety of creatures consume alcohol in the wild, ranging from bumble-bees to elephants. Hooch finds its way into their diets via the fermenting fruit, sap and nectar of various plants, and many exhibit signs of inebriation after they’ve enjoyed a good feed. Their weakness for the substance au naturel is understandable: ethanol is a rich food, with 75 percent more calories than refined sugar, and its distinctive aroma makes it easy to locate. This natural thirst has been exploited by man since the dawn of history. Aristotle noted that wild monkeys were caught by setting out jars of palm wine — the creatures would drink, then pass out, leaving them easy prey. The same method of trapping was still in use in the 19th century and commented on by Darwin in the opening chapter of “The Descent of Man,” when drawing similarities between humanity and the rest of creation. Monkeys could get drunk like men. They also got hangovers: “On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiable expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust, but relished the juice of lemons.”

gailcalled's avatar

Cedar waxwings in the fall will feast on fermented cherries, still hanging on the tree and lurch around happily.

I see this Japanese cherry tree from my upstairs toilet (this is the spring view, about to happen two weeks early) and have watched them often in Sept. and Oct.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled Beat me to it. Yes, many birds and animals are attracted to rotting and fermenting fruits/berries and become intoxicated. I’ve shared this story before, but, a few years ago in my area that is loaded with vineyards and wineries, hawks were coming into the local wildlife rehab group with what appeared to be neurological symptoms. Erratic flying, falling over, tilting, staggering.

Nobody knew what the issue was and speculated some sort of disease. Then..the mystery unfolded when someone observed that a local vineyard had dumped a huge mountain of fermented grape castings on their back 40 and that blackbirds were feasting on the castings, becoming extremely intoxicated and then were easy pickins’ for the Hawks which in turn be came drunk from eating the fermented flesh of the blackbirds which had them dropping from the sky and staggering around. lol

PhiNotPi's avatar

Locoweed is known to have neurological effects and is often eaten by cattle.

augustlan's avatar

So interesting! Thanks for all the info.

@LostInParadise That’s hilarious, about Santa Claus!

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled It doesn’t surprise me about the Cedar Waxwings, a species given to profligacy and dissipation. :-) They will sometimes eat so much; will gorge themselves on berries, etc. to the point that they are actually unable to fly.

lillycoyote's avatar

@LostInParadise I only just checked out your link and read the article. It’s fascinating. Talk about party animals…

Thanks for posting it.

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