Caffeine and alcohol aren’t the only drugs that form part of modern-day cultures. Some other legal highs are permitted in some countries.
Grown mostly in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, Catha edulis, known as khat or qat, is a green-leafed shrub that contains the amphetaminelike stimulant cathinone. Used recreationally for millennia, its effects include excitement, euphoria and loss of appetite.
Grown mainly in Central and South America, salvia is the largest genus in the mint family, and a number of species are psychoactive. Salvia apiana is used in the purification rituals of many Native American tribes, while Salvia divinorum is used by Mazatec shamans to incite hallucinations.
This small, spineless cactus is native to Texas and Mexico and is known for its psychoactive alkaloids. It contains the natural psychedelic substance mescaline. It is used as a ritualistic mind-altering substance, as well as in transcendent practices such as meditation.
Coca is one of four cultivated plants in the genus Erythroxylaceae. One of its alkaloids, when concentrated, is the illegal substance cocaine. But its growth, cultivation and use in its original form is legal in countries such as Columbia and Bolivia, where it’s used as a recreational stimulant.
Datura, found in north Africa and the Americas, is popular with gardeners for its flowers. It also has hallucinogenic properties. Datura contains poisonous chemicals such as atropine, and so can be fatal. Amounts of these toxins vary, making datura especially dangerous.
Piper methysticum is a crop found in Oceania. It can be chewed in its raw state, but is more usually ground into a paste and mixed with hot water. Kava-kava contains compounds called kavalactones, which have sedative, painkilling and memory-enhancing effects.
Tabernanthe iboga is a rainforest shrub that’s native to Central Africa. It’s used both ceremonially and recreationally, and has a potent psychedelic effect as well as boosting the immune system. Iboga also contains the alkaloid ibogaine, which is used in the treatment of substance abuse.
Derived from the cannabis plant, recreational use of this drug has been illegal in the UK since the 1920s. It is, however, available under licence as an anti-vomiting drug for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment, as well as helping those suffering from multiple sclerosis.