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Shaman and the Rave Party: Social Pharmacology of Ecstasy

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Volume: 37 Issue: 8-10 Dated: June - August 2002 Pages: 923-939
Paolo Nencini M.D.
Date Published
June 2002
17 pages
This article examines the hedonistic potentialities of psychoactive drugs.
Current psychobiological models of drug addiction focus on the capability of drugs to cause a pathological exploitation of the neural rewarding system. This approach has emphasized the role of hedonistic factors in the etiology of drug addiction. Comparing primitive and modern settings of intoxication, such as shamanic rituals and rave parties, it is possible to confute this assumption. The archaic way of perceiving and elaborating drug effects mainly determined their use as being for supernatural purposes and excluded recreational purposes. Only after a completely profane setting of drug use was developed did psychoactive drugs express all their hedonistic potentialities. The surge of hedonistic drug use depended on the shaping of appropriately profane settings of drug use, in which people expected only a pharmacological experience. The advent of these settings has been a gradual process, starting with the introduction of drugs such as coffee, tobacco, and spirits in the 16th and 17th centuries. Such a process required that the "profit-versus-moral dilemma" posed by the socially adverse effects of these drugs was solved in favor of profit. References