Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Did people take drugs in Tudor times?

History Extra

It is certainly plausible that drugs may have influenced some of the Bard’s work – A Midsummer Night’s Dream anyone? (Photbo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

That said, of 24 pipes examined, two had traces of coca plant, which would have been extremely rare in 16th-century Stratford-upon-Avon.
Coca leaves – from which cocaine was first derived in the 19th century – were used as both stimulant and medicine by the Inca of Peru, but the Spanish showed no interest in introducing them to Europe.
More commonly imported was Cannabis sativa, yet this was primarily used to make hemp clothes and rope, rather than joints.
In Elizabethan England, the foremost recreational drugs were actually alcohol and tobacco.
The fact that cannabis and hallucinogenic nutmeg have been found in smoking pipes might suggest people were also getting high, but there are no written sources mentioning such habits.
As for Shakespeare, the evidence is especially suspect – doobie or not doobie, that is the question!

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Greg Jenner.

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