Weed, Mushrooms, Ayahuasca Aren't Drugs
3 min

Weed, Mushrooms, Ayahuasca Aren't Drugs

3 min
Editorials News

Prohibition has completely changed our relationship to plants like cannabis, peyote, and mushrooms. Over the last century, we've been taught that these substances are simply "drugs"—dangerous substances with no place in our society. Here's how to change that.

Welcome to Zamnesia's Editorials, where our writer, Steven, shares his opinion on all things related to the cannabis, CBD, and smartshop industries. Remember, all the views expressed in these articles are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of Zamnesia as a company. To share your opinions with our author and our team, make sure to leave a comment.

The world is changing its stance on substances like cannabis. Today, more and more people are voting for more liberal/open approaches to drug policy, after finally realising that prohibition doesn’t work on a number of levels.

Unfortunately, prohibition was built on more than just laws that criminalised the possession, commercialisation, and use of substances such as cannabis. Along with these policy changes came hundreds of campaigns designed to misinform people about various substances, their effects, origins, and more.

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Through programmes spawned by Reefer Madness and D.A.R.E. (just to name a few), prohibitionists managed to sway millions of people around the globe into fearing psychoactive plants like cannabis. That fear runs so deep that it’s completely changed the way we speak about and relate to these plants, despite the fact that humankind has been using them from antiquity.

In fact, prohibitionists have been so effective in misleading us that even today, we refer to plants such as cannabis as “drugs”, rather than seeing them for what they really are: plants that have played key roles in our society for thousands of years.

What Do We Really Mean When We Say “Drugs?”

What Do We Really Mean When We Say “Drugs?”

If you Google the meaning of the word “drug”, you’ll find the following definition: “a substance, which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body”.

“A substance, which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.”

Now, there are countless substances that produce physiological reactions in the body. Ginger, garlic, mint, and tea are just a few examples. However, we’d hardly consider any of these substances “drugs”, which suggests we have a slightly different definition of the word.

Prohibition has taught us that “drugs” are substances that substantially change the way we feel, think, and act. In fact, the word is almost always used to refer to illicit substances that supposedly jeopardise both our physical and mental well-being. In fact, how many times have you heard “drugs and alcohol” in a phrase without batting an eye?

The prohibition campaigns of the last 100 years have been so effective that many of us often forget that drugs aren’t just sold on sketchy street corners or empty parking lots—they can also be bought legally at your local corner store or pharmacy.

Cannabis, Mushrooms, Ayahuasca, Peyote — Ancient Medicines And Spiritual Guides

Cannabis, Mushrooms, Ayahuasca, Peyote — Ancient Medicines And Spiritual Guides

So, it seems our use of the word “drugs” is a little off. And while that might seem trivial to some, it isn’t. Here’s why:

Many of the substances we call “drugs” come from plants that our ancestors had rich, deep connections to for thousands of years. In fact, many of these plants were even revered as powerful medicines long before we started using them to get high.

Cannabis, for example, started off as an agricultural crop grown in China for fibre and food, before becoming one of the thousands of plants used in Chinese herbal medicine. The Pen Ts’ao[1], an ancient Chinese book of medicine and the world’s oldest pharmacopoeia, mentioned cannabis as a treatment for rheumatic pain, intestinal constipation, malaria, and more. Other ancient texts, such as the Sanskrit Sushruta Samhita[2], also mentioned cannabis as a treatment for inflammation, diarrhoea, and more.

Ayahuasca, often dubbed an “extremely dangerous drug” was, and still is, considered medicine by Amazonian cultures in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and other South American countries. In fact, part of the ayahuasca experience is “the purge” (or “la purga” in Spanish), which many see as a form of releasing deep emotional burdens and distress. That is certainly true, but ayahuasca also contains unique compounds known as harmala alkaloids[3] (also found in ancient folk medicines in India and Pakistan) that help purge parasites from the body.

Peyote has a similar history. For Southwestern Native American tribes, peyote cacti were used to treat a variety of ailments, including pains and aches, fevers, colds, and much more. American biologist Richard Evan Schultes, for example, wrote about the potential of peyote as a medicine[4], describing some of its medical properties and uses in the journal American Anthropologist in 1938.

Historical evidence, such as stone art, even shows us that our ancestors[5] used psilocybin mushrooms for spiritual and religious purposes as far back as 9,000 years ago.

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Unfortunately, prohibition and the infamous war on drugs forced us to forget the rich history of these plants, and instead taught us that they are dangerous, illicit drugs with no place in our society. Aside from the properties of the drugs themselves, it's clear that prohibitionists also targeted the specific substances above as a way to vilify or eliminate the native cultures who utilised them. This is certainly in line with Western colonialism and racism, which have pervaded how we view all kinds of legal and illicit substances.

Why It’s Time We Change Our Perception Of “Drugs”

Why It’s Time We Change Our Perception Of Drugs

It's going to take time to undo the dirty work of prohibitionists, but changing the way we talk about cannabis and other psychoactive substances is a good place to start. By looking back in history, we can see that our ancestors had rich, deep connections with plants like cannabis, peyote, and those substances used in the ayahuasca brew.

They used these plants carefully and respected their power. The ritualistic nature via which our ancestors consumed these substances proves exactly that. If we wish to rebuild this connection with these plants, it’s time we stop referring to them with words that continue to propagate fear and misunderstanding.

Now, let me make one thing very clear: I am not promoting nor suggesting the use of any illicit substances. However, these plants have rich histories and real medical potential; it’s time to shed what we thought we knew about "drugs" in order to learn what is actually true about these ancient substances.

Steven Voser

Written by: Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an Emmy Award Nominated freelance journalist with a lot of experience under his belt. Thanks to a passion for all things cannabis, he now dedicates a lot of his times exploring the world of weed.

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We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

External Resources:
  1. Chinese History of Cannabis -
  3. Some folk uses of Peganum harmala in India and Pakistan | SpringerLink -

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