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Scientists Confirm Neanderthals Use of Psychedelics

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A recent study has uncovered evidence pointing to psychedelic use by Neanderthals thousands of years ago. Strands of human hair found in a Menorca, Spain, burial site gave researchers insight into hallucinogenic use during prehistoric times by some of the earliest species of humans.

The hairs contained traces of atropine and scopolamine, alkaloid substances extracted from nightshade plants that have psychedelic properties. Researchers also found traces of a stimulant called ephedrine, which also has psychedelic properties and can cause out-of-body experiences.

The research team published its findings in the journal “Scientific Reports.

Researchers discovered boxes with psychedelic pattern decorations while excavating a cave at a prehistoric site in Spain. The researchers posit that Neanderthals may have made the patterns on the boxes while under the influence of psychedelics. University of Valladolid associate professor of prehistory and lead study author Elisa Guerra-Doce says that the team’s findings point to drug use in prehistoric times.

Psychedelic use in modern times became popular in the 1960s and 1970s during the “Psychedelic Era,” but reduced significantly after the government classified hallucinogens such as LSD as Schedule 1 drugs. However, although the war on drugs raged on, a small community of users continued using psychedelics recreationally and for their purported therapeutic properties.

In recent years, a surge in psychedelic research has revealed that several psychedelic compounds do indeed have medical properties. A growing body of scientific literature now indicates that psychedelic-assisted therapy can treat debilitating mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), treatment-resistant depression and eating disorders.

However, although there is significant data on psychedelic use since the 1960s, we know little about whether and how prehistoric people used psychedelics. Autonomous University of Barcelona professor of archeological prehistory and study coauthor Rafael Mico called the findings “amazing” and said they presented the first evidence of psychedelic drug consumption in ancient Europe.

The findings have been decades in the making, Mico observed in an interview, starting in the mid-1990s when archaeologists discovered a sealed grotto in the Eastern Spanish island Minorca with the remains of 200 people from the Bronze Age. Collapsed rubble had sealed off the cave and kept the remains incredibly well-preserved, allowing researchers to discover that some of the people had dyed their hair.

As scientific methods and technologies improved over the years, researchers repeatedly examined the hairs and finally discovered that the 3,000-year-old strands of hair had traces of the stimulant ephedrine and hallucinogens scopolamine and atropine. Researchers say the ancient people would have had to consume psychedelics regularly for at least a year before their death for traces of psychedelic compounds to remain in their hair.

This discovery about the prehistoric use of psychedelics reaffirms that psychedelics may be generally safe for consumption in moderation, and enterprises such as Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ) are investigating how these substances can be used therapeutically to address mental health ailments and other clinical conditions.

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