Animals that Get Drunk or High in Nature

Millions of humans around the planet abuse alcohol and drugs, including opiates, marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens. It often seems like one of the unique, if troubling and disruptive, features of people, compared to wild animals; humans seek out intoxicating substances for fun while animals eat just for nutrition, whenever they’re hungry, or food is available. However, this assumption is not always true.

As it turns out, animals will seek out intoxicating and addictive substances, too. They also display compulsive behaviors around substances, putting themselves at physical risk to get high or drunk. They will behave like they are intoxicated or hungover, and go back for more later.

While all animals may accidentally run across fermenting fruits or eat a hallucinogenic plant, some animals are more prone to repeatedly consuming these substances than others. Here are the top five animals that exhibit behaviors associated with substance abuse.

  1. Elephants and alcohol: The Marula tree in Africa is known to produce fruit prized by many local animals, including pachyderms. However, the fruit is not just sought out while it is fully ripe, but also after it begins to ferment. Elephants in particular are known to seek out Marula trees and consume fermenting fruits, leading to aggressive behavior, loss of coordination, trampling local human settlements, and other odd behaviors. Elephants in India are also known to seek out human settlements, because where humans are, there is alcohol.
  2. Drunk parrots: Some species of parrot in the northern area of Australia are known to consume fermenting fruit at specific times of year, leading to birds literally falling out of the sky because they pass out due to alcohol intoxication. This occurs in other bird species in other parts of the world, but the Australian lorikeets are among the most notorious.
  3. Reindeer and shrooms: Eastern European reindeer do not consume the same magic mushrooms that humans pursue, but they do seek out toxic red-capped Amanita muscaria mushrooms. In humans, these mushrooms are known to cause dizziness and hallucinations. In reindeer, staring into space and exhibiting behaviors like altered consciousness are common after they eat the fungus.
  4. Cats and catnip: Certainly, some of the most famous instances of animals becoming intoxicated involve cats with catnip. This plant is a relative of mint and chamomile, and it can cause mild relaxation in humans; in cats, however, catnip produces a range of effects, including high energy and excitement, pleasure in touch, and drowsiness. The chemical that leads to feline intoxication is nepetalactone, and it has a much more drastic effect in house-cats.
  5. Dolphins high on pufferfish: The pufferfish is known to produce toxic venom, which can kill a person. The chemical can also kill dolphins if they ingest a large enough amount; however, like many other toxins, the drug can cause mind-altering effects in small amounts. A documentary produced by the BBC discovered the ocean mammals passing a pufferfish between them, chewing the fish to force it to release a little of the toxin, then passing the fish to the next dolphin. After consuming pufferfish venom, dolphins were observed to hang with their noses near the surface, appearing to gaze into their reflections.

Many other animals have been found to appear intoxicated on drugs or alcohol at various points. Reports of drunk moose, deer, birds, and other animals become online sensations almost overnight. Most animals do not intend to consume intoxicants in the same way that many humans seek out drugs for social or recreational reasons; however, some animals do display behaviors that indicate they intentionally consume fermented fruits or psychedelic drugs.

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