Monday, June 11, 2012

More on Animal Drug Use

From a fascinating essay in the Times by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, comparing human health with that of other animals:
Cedar waxwing birds are known to ingest fermented berries, fly while intoxicated and crash into glass walls. In Tasmania, wallabies have broken into fields where medical opium was growing, eaten the sap and got stoned.

Some animals show chronic drug-seeking behaviors. Bighorn sheep grind their teeth to the gums scraping hallucinogenic lichen off boulders in the Canadian Rockies; some Siberian reindeer seek out magic mushrooms. 

A friendly cocker spaniel in Texas once sent her owners’ lives into a tailspin when she turned her attention to toad licking. As described in an NPR story, the spaniel, Lady, had been the perfect pet, until one day she got a taste of the hallucinogenic toxin on the skin of a cane toad. Soon she was obsessed with the back door, always begging to get out. She’d beeline to the pond in the backyard and sniff out the toads. Once she found them, she mouthed them so vigorously she sucked the pigment right out of their skin. According to her owners, after these amphibian benders Lady would be “disoriented and withdrawn, soporific and glassy-eyed.” 
As my readers know, I am fascinated by this because it points out that being alive sometimes feels as bad to other animals as it does to us, leading to the desire for chemicals that change that feeling.

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