Intoxicants have been with mankind since before recorded history. The knowledge of how to use them was, initially, the province of shamen, priests, herbalists, lone seekers and the like. With the advent of social structures (from tribes to cities) the context for taking intoxicants began to change. With the division of social time divided between labor and leisure, so too were intoxicants restricted to those few circumstances which were still sanctioned (religious rites, medical emergencies, etc.), so as not to interfere with productive ‘labor time’.
But, like Pandora’s Box, the use of intoxicants, though once known only to the elect few, became the province of the many, and this pharmacological knowledge could never be made obscure again. As societies became more and more complex, so increased the number of people who ‘fell through the cracks’ of those societies; the disenfranchised, the destitute, the mad…
To these unfortunates were left the means of escaping pain, fear, loneliness… albeit temporarily.
Intoxicants used as anodyne and panacea; a false hope and a cure as deadly as any disease. Pain delayed is still pain yet-to-come. True Lethe comes only for the dead, until then, there are only her pale, seductive and nefarious sisters: among which are Opium and Absinthe.