Feel Better


EVERBODY WANTS TO GET STONED?:Current estimates place the number of active consumers at over 2.4 billion people worldwide (or roughly one third of the Earth’s population).

GETTING HIGH, A HUMAN OBSESSION? Wherever you find people, you find ridiculous amounts of time, wealth, and effort dedicated to the sole purpose of getting high. In ancient Sumer, it is estimated that the production of beer, a cornerstone of ritual and everyday life, sucked up almost half of overall grain production. When it comes to market economies, contemporary households around the world officially report spending on alcohol and cigarettes at least a third of what they spend on food; in some countries (Ireland, Czech Republic) this rises to a half or more.

FRIEND OR FOE? Why do we voluntarily poison our bodies and minds? Because of what they do to us? THC, the ingredient in cannabis that gets you high, is actually a bitter neurotoxin produced by the plant to avoid getting eaten. All plant drugs, including caffeine, nicotine, and cocaine, are bitter for a reason. The astringent taste is a message to herbivores: Back off, if you eat this it’s going to hurt your stomach or mess with your brain and probably both. Most herbivores, being sensible, give plants like this a wide berth. However, some particularly stubborn ones—or those with a powerful taste for coke—develop countermeasures, evolving to produce enzymes that detoxify the toxicants. It is significant that humans appear to have inherited these ancient mammalian defenses to plant toxins, suggesting that plant-based drugs, like alcohol, are not an evolutionarily novel scourge, but rather a longtime friend.

WHY HAVEN’T WE EVOLVED OUT OF IT? It is theoretically possible, then, that our taste for alcohol is like our achy lower backs, an unfortunate example of how genetic evolution is so constrained by previous decisions that it effectively has its hands tied. Evolutionary biologists call this “path dependence.” It is also the case that selection cannot act on a mutation that doesn’t exist. So, another possibility is that a cure for our taste for intoxication is biologically possible, but the spinning of the genetic mutation roulette wheel has yet to land upon it.

VIKING ALCOHOLICS: The Vikings were seriously into alcohol. The name of their chief god, Odin, means “the ecstatic one” or “the drunken one,” and he was said to subsist on nothing but wine. Mark Forsyth points out the significance of this: “While many cultures have a god of alcohol or drunkenness, in order to give alcohol some recognized role within society, when it comes to the Vikings the chief god and the god of alcohol are one and the same. That’s because alcohol and drunkenness didn’t need to find their place within Viking society, they were Viking society. Alcohol was authority, alcohol was family, alcohol was wisdom, alcohol was poetry, alcohol was military service, and alcohol was fate.”

The highest praise accorded to the legendary Viking/Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf was that “he never killed his friends when he was drunk.” As Forsyth observes, “This was clearly something of an achievement—a thing so extraordinary that you’d mention it in a poem.”

The booze-sodden Vikings, dismissed by the abstinent Ibn Fadlan as dirty drunkards, were also wildly successful as a cultural group. They dominated and terrified huge swaths of Europe, discovered and colonized Iceland and Greenland, became the first Europeans to reach the New World, and ended up siring a good proportion of modern Northern Europeans. A loose attitude toward alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to slow cultural groups down very much.

A TAXONOMY OF DRUNKENNESS: One early playwright puts advice concerning the virtues of moderation and sobriety into the mouth of the god of wine, Dionysus, himself: 

“Three cups only do I propose for sensible men, one for health, the second for love and pleasure and the third for sleep; when this has been drunk up, wise guests make for home. The fourth cup is mine no longer, but belongs to hubris; the fifth to shouting; the sixth to revel; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth to summonses; the ninth to bile; and the tenth to madness and people tossing the furniture about.”

ALCOHOL AND RITUAL: Throughout history and across the world, alcohol and other intoxicants—kava, cannabis, magic mushrooms, hallucinogen-laced tobacco—tend to be the prime offering in sacrifices to the ancestors and gods, as well as the central focus of both everyday and formal communal rituals. intoxicating essence. “With ‘To your health!’ we have the most everyday and pervasive example of a drinking ritual with a whiff of magic.” He further observes that “the necessity of alcohol for this ritual is a widespread and ancient assumption,” quoting the Victorian journalist and author Edward Spencer Mott: “Do we express our unfeigned joy and thankfulness for having a great and good Queen to reign over us by toasting her in flat soda water? Forbid the deed!”

Many who are more serious about banning intoxication, such as Pentecostals or Sufis, replace the joys of drunkenness with some form of non-chemical ecstasy, such as speaking in tongues or ecstatic dance. This all suggests that intoxication is performing a crucial functional role in society.

ALCOHOL HELPS US TO BE MORE COMMUNAL (ALSO CREATIVE AND CULTURAL): Early hominids lived in caves. One feature of the “cave” to which humans have adapted is that it provides fire, among other basic cultural technologies. It also provides language and incredibly valuable cultural information, which explains the multiple human adaptations to mastering languages and learning from others. Compared with the environment to which our line of primates originally adapted, our cave is crowded and full of strangers, non-relatives with whom we need to somehow cooperate. Living there is cognitively demanding, requiring not only the ability to master a slew of artificial cultural technologies and norms, but also a capacity for producing novel ones. Living in this niche therefore requires both individual and collective creativity, intensive cooperation, a tolerance for strangers and crowds, and a degree of openness and trust that is entirely unmatched among our closest primate relatives.

Compared to fiercely individualistic and relentlessly competitive chimpanzees, for instance, we are like goofy, tail-wagging puppies. We are almost painfully docile, desperately in need of affection and social contact, and wildly vulnerable to exploitation. As Sarah Blaffer Hardy, an anthropologist and primatologist, notes, it is remarkable that hundreds of people will cram themselves shoulder to shoulder into a tiny airplane, obediently fasten their seat belts, eat their packets of stale crackers, watch movies and read magazines and chat politely with their neighbors, and then file peacefully off at the other end. If you packed a similar number of chimpanzees onto a plane, what you’d end up with at the other end is a long metal tube full of blood and dismembered body parts. Humans are powerful in groups precisely because we are weak as individuals, pathetically eager to connect with one another, and utterly dependent on the group for survival.

The main demands imposed upon us by the odd, crowded cave to which we have adapted can be summed up with what I’ll call the Three Cs: we are required to be creative, cultural, and communal

We get drunk because we are a weird species, the awkward losers of the animal world, and need all of the help we can get. Compared to other primates, we are like goofy dogs: bizarrely tolerant of strangers, open to new experiences, ready to play. This openness to others, while necessary for our success, also creates vulnerability. 

ALCOHOL TAKES THE PFC OFFLINE: There is a body of evidence showing that already-acquired complex, skilled behavior is run by implicit, automatic systems, and that bringing the PFC and executive control online (it is offline when we are drunk) really screws things up. The best way to sabotage a professional tennis player’s serve is to ask them to think about how they are doing it as they do it. Asking a group of people engaged in effortless, pleasurable banter to reflect on their social dynamics is guaranteed to ruin the party. This is why having a fully developed PFC makes you relatively impervious to new knowledge and skills. And this is why the PFC takes so long to mature and childhood extends so long in humans: We have an enormous laundry list of things to learn from the people around us, so we need to remain flexible and receptive for as long as possible. This is also why anything that knocks out the monitoring prefrontal cortex (like alcohol) also offers us certain advantages

ALCOHOL CAN BLUNT ANTI-SOCIAL TENDENCIES: The degree to which we depend on, and cooperate with, one another to achieve things completely beyond our individual abilities looks a bit like bees or ants, with their impressive hives and complicated divisions of labor. But our primate biology leaves us with an evolutionary problem—at a deep level, we nonetheless remain selfish, backstabbing apes. A queen bee never has to worry about insubordination on the part of her subjects. Human rulers get poisoned or decapitated or simply voted out of office all the time, as our set of personal desires, our chimpanzee DNA, rears its individualistic head.

THE ULYSSES PACT (Advanced Directives) One of the many dangers that confront the hero Odysseus in his wide-ranging travels is a passage near the island of the sirens. All sensible sailors steer well clear of these dangerous creatures, who use their seductive song to lure vessels into the shoals and then feast upon the helpless, shipwrecked sailors. Odysseus, however, is never one to shrink from an adventure. A consummate hedonist, he is keen to hear the siren song, which is said to be unimaginably beautiful. He is also well aware of the dangers. In his typically clever fashion, he comes up with a work-around, a trick to prevent his future self from “defection,” from getting itself into trouble. He instructs his sailors to plug up their ears with wax so they cannot hear the dangerous temptation at all, and then to firmly tie him to the mast. In this manner, Odysseus is thus able to hear the sirens while being physically restrained from leaping to his death—which, in the moment of hearing the song, he dearly wishes to do.

Like the ropes binding Odysseus, emotions are only able to function as commitment devices because we can’t simply will ourselves free of them. By falling in love or pledging sincere loyalty to a group, we are effectively tying ourselves to the mast, binding ourselves into emotional commitments that will restrain us from betraying others when temptation inevitably calls.

ALCOHOL TURNS US ALL INTO FOOLS: Significantly, a common theme in cultures from across the world and throughout history is the idea of spiritual or moral perfection as somehow involving regaining the child’s mind, or The Fool’s mind. The Gospel of Matthew declares, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” An early Chinese Daoist text, the Daodejing or Laozi, compares the perfected sage to an infant or small child, perfectly open and receptive to the world. In response to this need, humans sometimes require powerfully enhancing childlike creativity and receptiveness in otherwise fully functional adults. Spiritual practices of various sorts, such as meditation and prayer, can be effective ways to do it. Faster, simpler, and vastly more popular, however, is turning to chemical substances that can temporarily put development and cognitive maturation into reverse.

A QUICK ROUTE TO PFC DE-ACTIVATION: If we want to re-create the cognitive flexibility of a child, a transcranial magnet would do the trick: We can just zap the PFC into submission. Such devices, however, have only become available recently. They are also expensive, not very portable, and typically not welcome at parties. What we need is something really low tech. Something that effectively takes the PFC offline and makes us happy and relaxed, but only for a few hours or so. Something that can be made anywhere, out of almost anything, by anyone, and produced reasonably cheaply. Bonus points if it tastes good, can be easily paired with food, and leads to dancing and other forms of communal sociality.Various religious traditions have availed themselves of this trick. Sufi dancing, group singing and chanting, extended meditation in painful poses (cross-legged; kneeling in prayer), personal mortification (self-flagellation; piercing), or extreme breathing exercises can all provide a similar sort of high, boosting dopamine and endorphins while diverting energy away from the PFC.

The PFC is the most evolutionarily novel part of the brain and the last to mature in development. It is also arguably what makes us human. It is difficult to imagine what life would be like without the ability to control impulses, focus on long-term tasks, reason abstractly, delay gratification, monitor our own functioning, and correct errors. We have also seen, however, that when it comes to successfully responding to the demands of the Three Cs (Community, Culture, Creativity), to the particular challenges of occupying the human ecological niche, the PFC is the enemy. Intoxication is an antidote to cognitive control, a way to temporarily hamstring that opponent to creativity, cultural openness, and communal bonding.


PFC AS APOLLO: Dionysus appeals to the more ancient, primitive regions of our brains, those dedicated to sex, emotions, movement, touch. Apollo finds his natural home in the prefrontal cortex. The PFC is what makes adult humans typically function more like grim wolves than playful Labradors.

Caffeine and nicotine are the wolf’s friends, helping her to focus, wiping away her fatigue, sharpening her attention. These substances are the friends and natural allies of the PFC. They are the tools of Apollo.

Dionysus’ alternative names in Latin was Liber, “The Free.” We need something that will allow us to enjoy all of the wonderful qualities of the childlike mind as adults, to have our Apollonian order and discipline leavened with a bit of Dionysian chaos or relaxation.

ALCOHOL LIBERATES THE INNER CHILD/FOOL: Allowing childlike Dionysus to take over, at least for a spell, is how we have responded to the challenges inherent to being human. Intoxication helps us with the demands of our ecological niche, making it easier for us to be creative, coexist in close quarters with others, keep up our spirits in collective undertakings, and be more open to connecting and learning from others. Even Plato, an almost monomaniacal devotee of Apollo, recognized the need for the kind of mental and spiritual rejuvenation provided by alcohol: “The souls of the drinkers get red-hot, like glowing iron, and thus turn softer and more youthful, so that anyone who has the ability and skill to mold and educate them finds them as easy to handle as when they were young.” And getting drunk also helps us with the communal demands of being human, making us simultaneously more trusting and more trustworthy.

Whether literally or spiritually, from time to time, we need to get drunk. Apollo must be subordinated to Dionysus; the wolf needs to give way to the Labrador; the adult needs to cede her place to the child. In his seminal work on chemical intoxication, The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley wisely observes that “systematic reasoning is something we could not, as a species or as individuals, possibly do without. But neither, if we are to remain sane, can we possibly do without direct perception, the more unsystematic the better, of the inner and outer worlds into which we have been born.” As Iain McGilchrist’s work on the divided/bilateral brain has shown us, our Apollonian functioning arises more from our Left Hemisphere, and the Dionysian Communal, Cultural, Creative manifestations from the Right Hemisphere.

ALCOHOLIC INSPIRATION: Apollo, the sober grown-up, can’t be in charge all of the time. Dionysus, like a hapless toddler, may have trouble getting his shoes on, but he sometimes manages to stumble on novel solutions that Apollo would never see. Intoxication technologies, alcohol paramount among them, have historically been one way we have managed to leave the door open for Dionysus. And it is sipping, dancing, wildly ecstatic Dionysus who freed us from our selfish ape selves long enough to drag us, stumbling and laughing, into civilization.

BEER BEFORE BREAD: Archaeologists working in the Fertile Crescent have noted that at the earliest known sites the particular tools being used and varieties of grain being grown were more suited to making beer than bread. One recent discovery found evidence of bread and/or beer making at a site in northeastern Jordan dated to 14,400 years ago, predating the emergence of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. Given that bread was still millennia away from becoming a dietary staple, the most likely motivation for these hunter-gatherers to hunker down and get to work was to produce the starring liquid ingredient of communal feasts and ecstatic religious rituals.3 It is also worth noting that the world’s oldest extant recipe is for beer—part of an early Sumerian myth—and that our earliest representations of group feasting include obvious depictions of alcohol swilling. The human mastery of fermentation into alcohol is so ancient that certain yeast strains associated with wine and sake show evidence of having been domesticated 12,000 years ago or more.

 Similarly, it is possible that the cultivation of tobacco in North and South America, especially in regions outside its native range, inspired the manipulation of other plant species and thereby the beginnings of agriculture.

Our modern word “bridal, comes from the Old English bryd ealu or “bride ale,” which was exchanged between bride and groom to seal their marriage, and crucially the new bond between their families.

All of this suggests that it is quite likely that the desire to get drunk or high gave rise to agriculture, rather than the other way around. Agriculture, of course, is the foundation of civilization. This means that our taste for liquid or smokable neurotoxins, the most convenient means for taking the PFC offline, may have been the catalyst for settled agricultural life. 

Moreover, intoxicants not only lured us into civilization but also helped make it possible for us to become civilized. By causing humans to become, at least temporarily, more creative, cultural, and communal—to live like social insects, despite our ape nature—intoxicants provided the spark that allowed us to form truly large-scale groups, domesticate increasing numbers of plants and animals, accumulate new technologies, and thereby create the sprawling civilizations that have made us the dominant mega-fauna on the planet. In other words, it is Dionysus, with his skinful of wine and his seductive panpipes, who is the founder of civilization; Apollo just came along for the ride.

ALCOHOL’S “MAGIC”: One of the many gifts attributed to Dionysus by the Greeks was the power of transformation. He was not just an inebriate, but something of a magician. He could turn himself into an animal, and he was the god who granted the unfortunate King Midas the power to turn anything he touched into gold. As the god of intoxication, he could turn sane people mad. Or, even more impressively, he could transform task-focused, suspicious, aggressive, and fiercely independent primates into relaxed, creative, and trusting social beings. 

ALCOHOL AS MUSE: A familiar trope in cultures around the world and throughout history is alcohol as muse. As Da’an Pan notes, “In traditional Chinese culture…wine plays the paradoxical role of intoxicator and facilitator of artistic imagination, ‘awakening’ drinkers to their optimum creative moments…to be intoxicated is to be inspired.” It is not uncommon for ancient Chinese poets to have entire series of poems under the rubric, “Written While Drunk,” including this one from the Zhang Yue (667 to 730): Once drunk, my delight knows no limits—Even better than before I’m drunk. My movements, my expressions, all turn into dance, And every word out of my mouth turns into a poem! This recalls an ancient Greek saying: If with water you fill up your glasses You’ll never write anything wise But wine is the horse of Parnassus That carries a bard to the skies.

LOST WEEKEND QUOTE: “It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys. Yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent, supremely competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michelangelo moulding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I’m a holdup man. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not Third Avenue any longer. It’s the Nile. The Nile, Nat, and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra. Listen: 

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie”




SHAMANS AND INTOXICANTS: So ancient are shamanistic religions that some claim they can be found even among other, extinct hominid lines. The so-called “flower burial” in a cave in northern Iraq, from approximately 60,000 years ago, contains the remains of a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) male who was described in early reports as a possible shaman, based on pollen traces suggesting that he had been laid to rest on a bed of flowers that included a wide range of medicinal and intoxicating drugs.


PFC OFFLINE, BETTER LATERAL THINKING: As we have seen earlier, it is the PFC, the seat of Apollo, that is the problem here. We noted that adults with PFC damage, or those who have their PFCs temporarily taken offline by a nice zap from a transcranial magnet, do better on creativity tasks. Similarly helpful is an overall passive or relaxed state of mind, indicated by a high level of alpha-wave activity in the brain, which reflects a downregulation of goal-oriented and top-down control regions like the PFC. In one study, experimenters used biofeedback to increase alpha-wave activity in a group of subjects. The participants were wired up to EEG monitors, shown a screen with a green bar indicating their level of alpha activity, and instructed to raise the bar as high as possible. To help them, they were given hints that would be familiar to anyone who has tried meditation: Relax your mind, breathe deeply and regularly, let all thoughts and feelings come and go freely, feel your body relaxing into your posture. Shortly thereafter, the subjects who successfully raised their alpha activity outperformed their peers on a lateral thinking task.



ALCOHOL PROMOTES LATERAL THINKING: As the creative primate, humans are crucially dependent on lateral thinking. We require a continuous stream of novel insights and a constant reorganization of existing knowledge. Children, with their underdeveloped PFCs, are superstars in this regard. But as we’ve seen, the very thing that makes them so creative renders most of their creations useless, at least from the pragmatic perspective of goal-oriented adults. Bizarrely distorted Lego worlds featuring post-apocalyptic, scavenged-parts vehicles driven by Lego people with Barbie-doll heads, or menageries of superhero figurines and stuffies organized into formal English tea parties, reflect impressive out-of-the-box thinking. But what society really needs right now is new vaccines and more efficient lithium-ion batteries. If your goal is to maximize implementable cultural innovation, your ideal person would be someone with the body of an adult but, for a brief period, the mind of a child. Someone with downregulated cognitive control, heightened openness to experience, and a mind prone to wander off in unpredictable directions. In other words, a drunk, stoned, or tripping adult. Societies have come to associate intoxication with creativity because chemical intoxication has been a crucial and widely used technology to effect this transition from adult to mental childhood in a relatively controlled manner.


EARLY AGRICULTURAL ALCOHOLICS: Greg Wadley and Brian Hayden, recent and prominent proponents of the beer before bread hypothesis, argue that the Neolithic transition to agriculture seriously increased both crowding and inequality. Hunter-gatherer bands likely consisted of twenty to forty people roaming across a broad landscape in search of game and plants. Those who lived through the lifestyle revolution that first occurred in the Fertile Crescent, when mobile hunter-gatherers began to settle into much larger and more sedentary communities, must have felt like rats thrown into a too-small cage with pretty crummy provisions. It certainly involved a marked decrease in quality and variety of food, from a diverse mix of wild meats, plants, and fruits to a diet based on filling but dull and vitamin-poor bread or other starches. There was also a steady and dramatic increase in both crowding and inequality. Even 12,000 years ago, as Wadley and Hayden note, villages in the Fertile Crescent contained 200 to 300 people and already showed signs of private property, wealth inequality, and social stratification. After that, things got much worse, very quickly.

ALL-DAY DRINKING: Nowadays we tend to reserve chemical stress alleviation for the end of the workday, relaxing with a drink or two at home or at the pub. Our ancestors, on the other hand, generally took the edge off with beers that were quite weak by contemporary standards, and spaced out their self-medication over the entire course of the workday. In any case, if the beer before bread advocates are correct, alcohol not only drove the creation of civilization by motivating early farmers to settle down and produce grain to ferment, but also by providing them with an invaluable tool to manage the psychological stress that came with this dramatic change in lifestyle.

ALCOHOL HELPS US TO ASSESS TRUSTWORTHINESS: Research shows that we size up and evaluate the trustworthiness of others almost immediately upon meeting them. One study found that subjects judged the trustworthiness of faces within 100 milliseconds, and that these judgments did not change even when people were given more information or time. This tendency to instantly peg people as likely cooperators or not appears quite early in development, with children above the age of three quickly and readily classing faces as “mean” or “nice.”42 These gut-level assessments are consistent across cultures, and play a surprisingly outsized role even in formal contexts, like court cases or political elections, where you would expect people to be guided by more abstract and rational criteria.

Formulating a lie or faking an emotion requires effort and attention. If you want to make it harder for liars to lie, one promising approach would be to exploit this weakness by downregulating their cognitive control. Ideally, you’d want to do this in any important social situation where cheating might be a concern, and in an unobtrusive manner. No transcranial magnets allowed. Bonus points if you can do it in a way that is actually pleasurable and also makes people happy and more focused on those around them. You see where I am going with this. I’ve spent so much time here on the evolutionary dynamics of commitment and cheater detection because the threat presented by the hypocrite, the false friend, is an existential one for any community. This is why helping to unmask fakers, and thereby solidify interpersonal trust, is a crucial function that intoxicants have played in human civilization. There is a very good reason that, in societies as different as those in ancient Greece, ancient China, medieval Europe, and the prehistoric Pacific Islands, no gathering of potentially hostile individuals occurred without the inclusion of staggering quantities of intoxicants.

ALCOHOL FACILITATES POLITICAL CONSENSUS: A recently discovered ancient Chinese text, dating to the fourth or third century BCE and written on bamboo strips, contains the evocative declaration, “Harmony between states brought about through the drinking of wine.”

In ancient China no political agreement was reached without the participants first voluntarily impairing their brains with carefully timed and calibrated shots of liquid neurotoxin. The Roman historian Tacitus noted that, among the barbarian tribes of Germany, every political or military decision had to be run through the gauntlet of drunken communal opinion: “It is at their feasts that they generally consult on the reconciliation of enemies, on the forming of matrimonial alliances, on the choice of chiefs, finally even on peace and war, for they think that at no time is the mind more open to simplicity of purpose or more warmed to noble aspirations. A race without either natural or acquired cunning, they disclose their hidden thoughts in the freedom of the festivity. Thus the sentiments of all having been discovered and laid bare, the discussion is renewed on the following day…They deliberate when they have no power to dissemble; they resolve when error is impossible.”

ALCOHOL FACILITATES POLITICAL CONSENSUS:Just as we shake hands to show that we are not carrying a physical weapon, communal intoxication allows us to cognitively disarm in the presence of others. By the tenth toast of sorghum liquor at a Chinese banquet, or the final round of wine at a Greek symposium, or the end of Purim, the attendees have all effectively laid their PFCs on the table, exposing themselves as cognitively defenseless. This is the social function that Henry Kissinger had in mind when he supposedly told the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, “I think if we drink enough mao-tai we can solve anything.” Intoxication has therefore played a critical role helping humans get past the cooperation dilemmas that pervade social life, especially in large-scale societies. For groups to move past suspicion and second-guessing, our sneaky conscious mind needs to be at least temporarily paralyzed, and a healthy dose of chemical intoxicant is the quickest, most effective, and most pleasant way to accomplish this goal.

BOOZE AND UNITY AT WORK: The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a union in the early twentieth century that needed to solve a serious public goods problem: getting ethnically diverse, mutually suspicious workers with different trades and backgrounds to put aside their narrow personal interests and present a unified front in high-stakes collective bargaining against capital owners. The degree to which they relied upon heavy drinking, combined with music and singing, is reflected in the nickname by which they are best known today, the Wobblies, most likely a reference to their manner of stumbling from saloon to saloon.   

These drunken, singing Wobblies, with their motto “an injury to one is an injury to all,” were quite successful in bringing together up to 150,000 workers across a wide variety of industries and winning important concessions from employers.


Would they have been able to do this without alcohol we might ask, as we may ask lots of questions when we remove morality, and idealised view of ourselves, transmitted via genes as well as memes, from our human equations. Maybe our species are only able to do certain things that require some form of vulnerability when they are to some extent, high.

OLD SKOOL IDEAS ABOUT ALCOHOL: Frederick the Great of Prussia, in 1777, issued a diatribe against the novel, and in his view dangerous, habit of drinking coffee instead of beer: “It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.”


THOSE WHO PUKE TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER: Classic anthropological work by Dwight Heath, on the remote Camba people of the Bolivian Amazon, documented the manner in which Camba men use alcoholic binges, often drinking to the point of unconsciousness, to enhance their social solidarity and overcome interpersonal conflicts. Those who puke together stay together. 

In ancient China, “It could often be seen as an insult not to get drunk, but on the other hand, one was also not supposed to get sloppy, as it were, because that would impact the maintenance of deferential relationships.” 

“When early in fieldwork I asked a group of longshoremen why someone who was married, young, fit and hardworking—all well regarded qualities in a workmate—was nonetheless an outside man, the answer given was that he was a ‘loner.’ When I queried what form this took I was told, ‘He doesn’t drink—that’s what I mean by a loner.’”

ALCOHOLIC ECSTASY AS A COMMUNAL GLUE: Robin Osborne’s musings on the ancient Greek symposium:

Intoxication was not something merely tolerated in others because of the pleasures it gave to the self. Intoxication also both revealed the true individual, and bonded the group. The intoxicated…faced up to how they ordered the world and where they belonged in that world; those who would fight, and die, together established their trust in each other by daring to let wine reveal who they were and what they valued.

“Ecstasy” comes from the Greek ek-stasis, or literally “standing outside oneself.” Beyond allowing potentially hostile individuals to better trust and like one another, extreme levels of intoxication—especially when combined with music and dance—can be a tool for effectively erasing the distinctions between self and other. Surrendering to the abandonment that comes with drunkenness thus often serves as a cultural signal that one has become fully identified with, or absorbed into, the group.

Emily Pitek, found that, of the 140 cultures where “ecstatic religious practices” are mentioned, 100 (71 percent) also note the presence of “alcoholic beverages,” “drinking (social),” “drunkenness (prevalence),” “recreational and non-therapeutic drugs,” and/or “hallucinogenic drugs.

“Ecstasy!” wrote Gordon Wasson, an amateur mushroom enthusiast who is best known for championing the case that ancient Vedic soma was derived from the Amanita muscaria, or “fly agaric,” toadstool. “In common parlance ecstasy is fun. But ecstasy is not fun. Your very soul is seized and shaken until it tingles. After all, who will choose to feel undiluted awe? The unknowing vulgar abuse the word; we must recapture its full and terrifying sense.”

“Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the YES function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth.”

—William James

CODIFIED DRUNKENNESS: Writing of the use of chicha among traditional cultures in the Andes, Guy Duke observes: “In the Andes, public drunkenness was a central aspect to religious and social life…Intoxication was seen as a means of gaining a deeper connection to the spiritual realm and no ritual took place without inducement of intoxication among the participants…The purpose was to get as drunk as possible and show one’s inebriation publicly as a sign of immersing oneself in the ceremony…Not only was ritual public drunkenness sought, in many cases it was mandatory.”

LIFE, DEATH, ALCOHOL: The efficiency with which alcohol and other substances decenter the self is the reason that intoxicant-fueled ecstasy is as ancient as human ritual itself. Jars containing our earliest documented alcoholic beverage—a “Neolithic grog,” made of honey mead, rice beer, and fruit wine—from the Jiahu tomb (7000 to 6000 BCE) in the Yellow River Valley, were “carefully placed near the mouths of the deceased, perhaps for easier drinking in the hereafter,” and the contents were no doubt also imbibed by those performing and attending the funeral.The most dramatic archaeological remains from Bronze Age China are enormous, elaborate ritual vessels designed for serving and drinking alcohol. Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age tombs are packed with drinking paraphernalia, musical instruments, and food remains, suggesting that, from the beginning of documented Chinese history, the dead were sent off in wild bacchanalia that culminated with the attendees, drunk as skunks, tossing their cups into the grave.

NEUROCHEMICAL GLUE: Dunbar and his colleagues see the physiological effects of alcohol, in particular, as a crucial component in social rituals. Specifically, they point to the endorphin release triggered by booze, especially when drinking is combined with music, dance, and ritual, as a crucial factor allowing humans to cooperate on a scale unattainable by our monkey or ape relatives. Endorphins and other opioids are stimulated naturally in most mammals by sexual intercourse, pregnancy, birth, and breast-feeding, and all play a strong role in both mate pair bonding and mother-infant bonding. What humans have figured out, however, is that a tasty liquid can be consumed to expand the reach of this “neurochemical glue.” One would expect that an increase in serotonin, another effect of alcohol and other intoxicants, would add to the bonding mix. In addition to enhancing individual mood, increased serotonin has been shown to reduce selfish behavior in Prisoner’s Dilemma games, while depleting serotonin through blockers, such as tryptophan, has the opposite effect. This synergy has perhaps found its perfected form in modern rave culture, where the powerful boost in serotonin created by MDMA intoxication is combined with driving, repetitive beats and group synchrony.

INTOXICATION TO CIVILISATION: By enhancing creativity, dampening stress, facilitating social contact, enhancing trust and bonding, forging group identity, and reinforcing social roles and hierarchy, intoxicants have played a crucial role in allowing hunting and gathering humans to enter into the hive life of agricultural villages, towns, and cities. This process has gradually scaled up the scope of human cooperation, eventually creating modern civilization as we know it. 

DECISIVE DRINKING: Iain Gately notes that in ancient Persia no important decision was made without being discussed over alcohol, although it would not actually be implemented until reviewed sober the next day. Conversely, no sober decision would be put into practice until it could be considered, by the group, while drunk.


COMMUNISM’S FOUNDING STATUS: People say a lot of stupid things when drunk. But novel or innovative ones tend to rise to the surface of the torrent of ideas that flows back and forth in a group when everyone is relaxed and happy, defenses down and open to insight. One of the most significant political ideologies of modern times, communism, was forged by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx over “ten beer-soaked days”10 in Paris in 1844;

This is precisely why, in Oxford colleges, evenings of discussion and debate formally begin with the Latin declaration, nunc est bidendum (“Now is the time for drinking”).17

With gently downregulated PFCs,students speak out more freely, make intellectual connections with one another, and get to witness their mentors working things out on the fly, partially and temporarily free from the fetters of academic hierarchies. Colleagues float ideas that would otherwise never bubble up into consciousness and recklessly venture out of their intellectual safe zones, blundering across disciplinary boundaries that often desperately need to be crossed.

GETTING HIGH ON THE NEW: Aldous Huxley, reflecting on an unusual flower arrangement seen during a mescaline trip, felt that he had been given the glimpse of “what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation—the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.” To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large—this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.20

GETTING HIGH FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: LSD was instrumental in the creative design process that gave rise to circuit chips, and Apple founder Steve Jobs claimed that his experiments with LSD ranked as some of his most important life experiences. The synergy between San Francisco drug-based hippy culture and Silicon Valley innovation has been replayed in other places around the globe, from Berlin to Beijing, where intoxicant-heavy underground or bohemian cultures have rubbed shoulders with new industries dependent on creative insight rather than manufacturing muscle. A modern twist in hallucinogen use—a trend pioneered, as one might expect, in Silicon Valley—is making psychedelics easier to integrate into everyday life through the practice of “microdosing.”Microdosing involves taking frequent but small amounts of purified LSD or psilocybin, on the order of one-tenth of the normal dose, to induce mild, but sustainable, highs. The journalist Emma Hogan has documented widespread microdosing among knowledge workers in the San Francisco Bay Area. One interviewee, “Nathan,” credits microdosed LSD with increasing his productivity, giving him a creative edge, and magnifying his impact at investor-pitch meetings. “I view it as my little treat. My secret vitamin,” he told her. “It’s like taking spinach and you’re Popeye.” Hogan quotes an observation by Tim Ferriss, an angel investor and author, that “the billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis.”

WHICH SUBSTANCES ARE MORE DANGEROUS: Despite lurid reports in the 1960s about LSD-induced insanity or tripping teenagers leaping off roofs, psychedelics are considerably safer, in most regards, than alcohol or cannabis. They are non-addictive, selectively target certain parts of the brain rather than playing havoc with the entire brain-body system, and cause no known side effects. In a 2009 briefing30 the U.K.’s top drug adviser, Dr. David Nutt, ranked LSD (along with cannabis and MDMA) as less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, although he was later forced to resign because of the resulting controversy.

DEPATTERNING: Pollan’s popular account of psychedelics was inspired in part by the work of Giorgio Samorini, who has similarly argued that chemical intoxicants have played a crucial role, especially in times of rapid change, as a “depatterning factor” that increases cognitive and behavioral diversity in many animal populations, including humans.32

BUILDING TRUST VIA INTOXICATION: One of the most effective mechanisms human beings have invented for assessing the trustworthiness of a new potential cooperator is the long, drunken banquet. As we have seen, from ancient China to ancient Greece to Oceania, no negotiation was ever concluded, no treaty ever signed, without copious quantities of chemical intoxicants. In the modern world, with all of the remote communication technologies at our disposal, it should genuinely surprise us how often we need a good, old-fashioned, in-person drinking session before we feel comfortable about signing our name on the dotted line.This is not a foolish desire: As we’ve seen, a PFC-impaired person is a more trustworthy one.

SOCIAL CONTAGION: The results were clear. “Alcohol consumption,” the authors concluded, “enhanced individual and group-level behaviors associated with positive affect, reduced individual-level behaviors associated with negative affect, and elevated self-reported bonding.” A later analysis of the social dynamics reflected in the videos found that intoxication enhanced the “contagion” of smiling and positive affect: genuine smiles that popped up in drinking groups were more likely to spread to everyone, rather than simply being ignored. This contagion effect was particularly dramatic in male-dominated groups, where smiles in the placebo and control conditions tended to go unreciprocated. Crucially, these positive effects on group bonding were driven by the pharmacological effects of the alcohol: The placebo group resembled the control group, and both differed significantly from the alcohol group on all measures. One recent summary of research on the effect of alcohol on social cohesion and intimacy concludes that it “can increase self-disclosure, can decrease social anxiety, and consistently increases extraversion, including a gregariousness facet subscale. In addition, research has found that alcohol can increase happiness and sociability, helping behaviors, generosity, and social bonding, and decrease negative emotional responses to social stressors.”

THE LOCAL PUB: Researchers found that people who had a neighborhood pub that they frequented regularly had more close friends, felt happier, were more satisfied with their lives, more embedded into their local communities, and more trusting of those around them. Those who never drank did consistently worse on all these criteria, while those who frequented a local did better than regular drinkers who had no local that they visited regularly. A more detailed analysis suggested that it was the frequency of pub visits that lay at the heart of this: it seemed that those who visited the same pub more often were more engaged with, and trusting of, their local community, and as a result they had more friends.

ALCOHOLIC BONDING: Tao Yuanming, has a line describing a reunion with a dear friend he hasn’t seen in a long time: “Without saying a word, our hearts were drunk; and not from sharing a cup of wine.” As Michael Ing observes, “For Tao, friendship is intoxicating, and true friends understand each other without having to say a word. Friendship, like [wine], nullifies the limitations of self and time. It encourages the loss of oneself in another, and heightens an awareness of this other, more communal, self.”82 Although Tao himself attributes his intoxication to friendship, not wine, it is important to realize that this explicit disclaimer is a poetic trick directing our attention to the substance that actually facilitated this meeting of the hearts.

ALCOHOL AND INTROVERSION: Some research suggests that the instrumental use of alcohol might be especially important for introverts or those with social phobias, who strategically use alcohol to effect “a self-induced, time-restricted personality change,” temporarily transforming themselves into extroverts for long enough to make it through a cocktail reception or dinner party.86 (Introverted readers may well recognize this particular mind hack.)

THE BURNING MAN EFFECT: Although chemical intoxicant use is an assumed ingredient in these events, the degree to which the drugs themselves are responsible for producing Durkheimian effervescence and group bonding remains an open question. A recent study of multiday mass gathering events in the U.S. and the U.K.—specifically outdoor festivals and concerts that mingled music, dancing, synchrony, and lots of drugs—took an initial step in the direction of untangling these factors. The researchers went on-site and interviewed over 1,200 attendees about the nature and quality of their experiences, as well as their recent psychoactive drug use. They found that drug use—particularly the use of psychedelics and benzos, such as Valium—correlated with an increased likelihood to report that the event was accompanied by positive mood, involved social connection, and was a transformative experience.98 Dancing and listening to music was fine, but drugs appeared to provide the catalyst for transformation and bonding. This study thus provides some very preliminary evidence that chemical intoxicants play a crucial, and too often unmentioned, role in satisfying a basic human need for ecstasy.

THE FOURTH DRIVE: Ronald Siegel believes that “intoxication is the fourth drive,” after food, sex, and sleep.

ALCOHOL’S ABOLISHMENT OF THE CURSE OF SELF: As Albert Camus once observed, in his reflections on the Sisyphean nature of human existence, “If I were a cat among animals, this life would have meaning, or rather this problem would not arise, for I should belong to this world. I would be this world to which I am now opposed by my whole consciousness.” One of the primary functions of alcohol and other chemical intoxicants is to, at least temporarily, abolish what the social psychologist Mark Leary has called the “curse of the self,” our goal-oriented, anxiety-prone inner color commentator who is always getting in the way of our ability to simply be and enjoy the world. “Had the human self been installed with a mute button or off switch,” Leary writes, “the self would not be the curse to happiness that it often is.” Human selves do not, in fact, come pre-installed with a mute button, which is precisely why we reach for the bottle or joint. “We now spend a good deal more on drink and smoke than we spend on education,” Aldous Huxley observes, because “the urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone all the time.”This urge finds its outlet in spiritual practices, like prayer, meditation, or yoga, and also in our drive to drink and get high.

JUMP OUT OF YOUR MIND: Getting the afflicted person to “jump out” of their conscious mind is one way to describe the effect of dialing down the PFC. Like the rats in the experiments with overcrowded cages, humans in civilization live squeezed together, constantly rubbing shoulders with strangers, in a way that goes fundamentally against our chimpanzee nature. We delay gratification, accept complex suboptimal compromises, work long days at boring jobs, and endure tedious meetings. We are particularly in need of having our unconscious “opened like a flower”—at least on occasion.

ALCOHOL AND SOCIALITY: Sitting in of an evening, meditating on the Bible, whittling away at a piece of wood or spinning yarn for knitting, was preferable to taking alcohol in groups. In this way, the campaign against intoxication succeeded in atomizing individuals, a move that many of the mass leisure pursuits of the twentieth century would reinforce by encouraging them to combine only in order to stare in ordered passivity at some entertainment spectacle, whether in the cinema, concert-hall, football ground or in virtual reality, whereas intoxication had brought them together in interacting, dynamic gatherings.


VICTORIAN MORALISING MEETS 20TH C. MEDICAL SCIENCE: 2018 Lancet article that has haunted our discussion, a terrible document that concluded definitively that the only safe level of alcohol consumption was zero.

 As Stuart Walton observes in his brilliant, wickedly funny cultural history of intoxication, Out of It, “There is a sedimentary layer of apologetics, of bashful, tittering euphemism, at the bottom of all talk about alcohol as an intoxicant that was laid down in the nineteenth century, which not even the liberal revolution of the 1960s quite managed to dislodge.” It is worth quoting at length his diatribe against the whiff of Victorian hypocrisy that seems to invariably accompany any discussion of alcohol: A hysterical editorial in a tabloid newspaper calling for drinks companies to be made to pay the medical expenses of cirrhosis patients may simply be called the mood-music of the new repression, but how to react to this introductory comment in a monumental history of winemaking by one of its most elegant chroniclers, Hugh Johnson? “It was not the subtle bouquet of wine, or a lingering aftertaste of violets and raspberries, that first caught the attention of our ancestors. It was, I’m afraid, its effect.” Quite so, but why the deprecatory mumble? What is there to be “afraid” of in acknowledging that wine’s parentage lies in alcohol, that our ancestors were attracted to it because the first experience of inebriation was like nothing else in the phenomenal world? And what else in it attracts the oenophile of tomorrow in the first place, if not the fact that she found it a pleasant way of getting intoxicated today? Can we not say these things out loud, as if we were adults whose lives were already chock-full of sensory experience?

It is in many ways easier to be frank today about one’s sexual habits than it is to talk about what intoxicants one uses…rendering us all shame-faced inarticulates on the subject.”


THE MORALITY OF GETTING HIGH: We work from home, collaborate online, network over meals and at receptions, wedge exercise or a stolen moment with our children in between a conference call and a team brainstorming session. Psychoactives—not only pure stimulants like coffee and nicotine, but intoxicants like alcohol and cannabis—might therefore be even more important for us today than they have been historically. Chemical intoxicants may have lured early hunter-gatherers into the agricultural life, and then served as a crucial tool for allowing them to adapt to it. Despite the other tools we currently have at our disposal, we descendants of those first domesticated apes may require chemical support now more than ever. I would submit that one reason we have trouble properly valuing the benefits derived from chemical intoxicants is because of a false, but deeply seated, dualism between mind and body that colors our judgment. We have no problem with people altering their mood by watching fluff TV or going for a jog, but grow uncomfortable when their psychoactive hack involves a corkscrew and chilled bottle of Chardonnay. A person who meditates for an hour and achieves x percent reduction in stress and experiences a y percent rise in mood is viewed in a much more positive light than one who spent that hour achieving precisely the same results by downing a couple pints of beer. Some of the variance here can be explained by the potential negatives that accompany alcohol consumption—potential for addiction, truckload of calories, damage to the liver—but this is only part of the story.

UNACKNOWLEDGED EFFECTS OF SUBSTANCES: Mircea Eliade, in his landmark comparative study of shamanism, famously dismissed drug-induced shamanistic experiences as a “mechanical and corrupt method of reproducing ‘ecstasy,’” a “vulgar substitute for ‘pure’ trance.”


NATURAL/UNNATURAL: A FALSE DISTINCTION? Those who are offended by the idea that the swallowing of a pill may contribute to a genuinely religious experience should remember that all the standard mortifications—fasting, voluntary sleeplessness and self-torture—inflicted upon themselves by the ascetics of every religion for the purpose of acquiring merit, are also, like the mind-changing drugs, powerful devices for altering the chemistry of the body in general and nervous system in particular.… God, [one might insist], is a spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit. Therefore an experience which is chemically conditioned cannot be an experience of the divine. But, in some way or another, all of our experiences are chemically conditioned, and if we imagine that some of them are purely “spiritual,” purely “intellectual,” purely “aesthetic,” it is merely because we have never troubled to investigate the internal chemical environment at the moment of their occurrence.

ALCOHOL AND VIOLENCE: Alcohol is the only drug, besides pure stimulants like meth, that is known to increase physical aggression and violence. Cannabis, kava, MDMA, and psychedelics all produce either mellow or introverted highs. Alcohol’s stimulating effect, when combined with cognitive myopia and loss of executive function, can induce aggressive or violent behavior, especially in people with already low levels of cognitive control.

Intoxicated, heterosexual men are more likely to misread female behavior as sexually suggestive.54 Significantly, there was a clear specificity to this bias: Men in one study showed reduced ability to distinguish between generic friendliness and sexual interest while remaining capable of accurately processing other relevant cues, such as how provocatively the women were dressed.

A probably related, and particularly disturbing, finding comes from studies where men are shown pornographic clips depicting (fictionally) either consensual sex or rape and have their physiological arousal measured. Sober male subjects are more aroused by portrayals of consensual sex, whereas intoxicated men are aroused by both.

COUPLES WHO DRINK TOGETHER: Alcohol may play a similarly double-edged role when it comes to personal relationships in industrialized societies. Survey data suggests that married couples who drink together, and in similar amounts, report higher levels of marital satisfaction and have lower rates of divorce. Studies have also shown that drinking together, as opposed to drinking apart, has positive effects on couples’ interactions the following day.67 One way that we would expect modest amounts of alcohol to be helpful to couples would be in resolving conflicts or tensions, with the combination of enhanced honesty, focus on the moment, and elevated mood making it easier to raise and process difficult emotions or deep concerns.

GETTING THERE BY OTHER MEANS: The chanting of the curandero, the medicine man, the shaman; the endless psalm singing and sutra intoning of Christian and Buddhist monks; the shouting and howling, hour after hour, of revivalists—under all the diversities of theological belief and aesthetic convention, the psychochemico-physiological intention remains constant. To increase the concentration of CO2 in the lungs and blood and so to lower the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve, until it will admit biologically useless material from Mind-at-Large—this, though the shouters, singers and mutterers did not know it, has been at all times the real purpose and point of magic spells, of mantrams, litanies, psalms and sutras. The “cerebral reducing valve” of which Huxley speaks is, of course, the PFC, the center of cognitive control and rational focus. His argument is that, despite the diversity of theological views that inform them, the goal of all of these religious practices is physiologically identical: to reduce the activity of the PFC and boost endorphins and other “feel good” hormones, allowing the narrow individual self to be open to the “Mind-at-Large.”

Pentecostal christians seem to be able to use prayer-induced glossolalia to knock out their PFC as effectively as having downed a few glasses of Chardonnay. Pentecostal services involve intense and extended singing and dancing that can lead to speaking in tongues and other expressions of having been possessed by the Holy Spirit. For as we have discussed, there is more than one way to skin a prefrontal cortex: Intense physical activity can have similar effects as one or two shots of whiskey.

GETTING THERE BY OTHER MEANS: In the 1970s, the psychiatrist and spiritualist guru Stanislav Grof developed a technique dubbed “holotropic breathwork,” whereby intense hyperventilation is used to starve the brain of oxygen and induce LSD-like experiences. In a review of non-chemically induced “hypnagogic states,” or episodes of dreamlike disassociation from waking reality, the psychologist Dieter Vaitl and colleagues list a variety of techniques by which such states can be induced, including extreme temperatures, starvation and fasting, sexual activity and orgasm, breathing exercises, sensory deprivation or overload, rhythm-induced trance (drumming and dancing), relaxation and meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback.

THE FIRST MIRACLE? Jesus performed many impressive miracles, including walking on water and raising Lazarus from the dead. But it is worth noting that the water into wine feat was his first.

IN A NUTSHELL: As we have seen, besides its immediate hedonic value, the cognitive and behavioral effects of alcohol intoxication represent, from a cultural evolutionary perspective, a robust and elegant response to the challenges of getting a selfish, suspicious, narrowly goal-oriented primate to loosen up and connect with strangers.



Brown, Stewart (2009). Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin.


Henrich, Joseph. (2015). The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Siegel, Ronald. (2005). Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.

  Walton 2001, Intoxicology: A Cultural History of Drink and Drugs (2016).