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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Timeline: Drugs and Drink Through the Ages

4 Substance


The first record of alcohol making and drinking dates from 3500 BC in Egypt. Photo via

Did you ever wonder how far back in history you have to go to find evidence of the first booze-hounds? Or when the cocaine was removed from Coca-Cola and replaced by caffeine? Or who’s to blame for introducing tobacco to the Western world? Or who we can thank for first getting France high on pot?

Well, wonder no more! INDUP, the International Network of People who Use Drugs, has assembled the longest timeline of events in the history of drugs that we’ve ever seen. Of course they did—they’re the experts.

The variety and number of punishments through the ages for being caught with these timeless substances is worth the price of admission alone. To take only two, tobacco got you tortured to death in Russia in the 1600s, while opium got you death by strangulation in China a century later. But there’s plenty of wit and wisdom here, too: “Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary” (The Babylonian Talmud, 450 AD). So true.

No doubt the true drug-event timeline extends into infinity, but this is a great start.