Why have addictions and the social problems of drug abuse become one of the greatest public health concerns confronting contemporary societies? One might suppose our addictions are simply a consequence of our well-documented biological proclivities to use drugs. Substances are addictive because they mimic the effects of neurotransmitters. Humans use drugs because they enhance the ability of our nervous system and its many higher-level systems to function more effectively—to resist pain, stay up longer, be sociable, enjoy ourselves, relax and sleep, among others. Yet pre-modern people in general did not succumb to addiction; instead, such substance use provided avenues for seeking spiritual experiences and therapeutic alterations of consciousness.1 2

Michael James Winkelman, Ph.D.

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