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This Is How Animals Get High

Creatures and their preferred substances are a trip!

by Zoe Wilder

by Zoe Wilder

Did you know that in Colombia and Peru, the tiny caterpillar larvae of the Eloria noyesi moth feeds on as many as fifty coca leaves, the raw ingredient of cocaine, daily without altering dopamine receptors? Even though these larvae can munch Scarface under the table, many of their friends in the animal kingdom don’t possess the same high tolerance. In fact, many animals are highly susceptible to mind-altering substances, some even exhibiting drug-seeking behavior like fiending addicts. Sometimes, it’s to treat their own illnesses preventatively and therapeutically. Other times, it’s to tie a few on recreationally, indicating that the urge to self-medicate doesn’t stop at humans.

Jaguars eat hallucinogenic vines.

Almost like domesticated cats get loopy on catnip, but not quite. Jaguars in the rain forest of Peru have been spotted munching on Banisteriopsis caapi, or Yage, a woody vine used to prepare the traditional spiritual medicine ayahuasca. Then they hallucinate.

Bees get sloshed on fermented nectar.

It doesn’t take much to get a bee drunk when they’re indulging on fermented nectar. Struggling to fly, some are so twisted that they can’t find their way back to the hive. The ones that don’t get lost stumble back to the swarm and await severe punishment. In this case, they chew off the drunk bee’s legs. A bit harsh, no?

Bighorn sheep love psychoactive lichen.


Bighorn sheep in the Canadian Rockies go to great lengths to become intoxicated by a rare hallucinogenic yellow-green lichen that grows on rocks. They’ll “negotiate narrow ledges, knife-edged outcrops, and dangerous talus slides” to scrape their teeth, sometimes down to the gums, on the lichen-covered rock before emerging totally stoned.

Black lemurs get buzzed off millipedes.

In Madagascar, black lemurs nibble on millipedes until the gangly arthropods secrete chemicals containing cyanide as their defence mechanism. The lemurs then wipe the arthropod’s venom all over their bodies to repel insects and enjoy the delightful side effect of getting lit in the process.

Wallabies sneak into poppy fields for an opium fix.


Growing opium for the pharmaceutical market is big business in Tasmania. This Australian region is known for producing over 50 percent of the world’s legal opium. It turns out, wallabies have a hankering for the Midnight Oil, too. Packs of whacked-out wallabies have been spotted pouncing around poppy fields, creating crop circles, and generally ruining harvests.

Dolphins get lit on pufferfish.

In the ocean off Southeast Africa, researchers discovered bottlenose dolphins getting high from pufferfish secretions. Large quantities of pufferfish venom is deadly, but dolphins are smart enough to eat the perfect amount, handling the pufferfish with care, before passing it around the school for all to enjoy.

Animals party together in the jungle.

Animals in Africa have been known to gather together and get drunk. Giraffes, boars, ostriches, monkeys, elephants, and antelopes seek out trees with mounds of fermented rotten marula fruits, indulge until they’re disoriented, and pass out cold. Then, just like us, they wake up hungover.

Reindeer enjoy magic mushrooms.

For those curious about Santa and his flying reindeer, look no further. Tradition has it that hundreds of years ago, eastern European shamans would collect a “holy fungi,” now known as the iconic Fly agaric mushroom, dry them out, and deliver them as gifts in late December for the winter solstice. Even today, reindeer there are often seen foraging for these same shrooms. They even fight over them with the rest of the herd. It’s because they’re magically delicious!


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Zoe Wilder

Zoe Wilder is a writer based in Portland, Oregon, with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the College of William & Mary and a Master of Social Work from Fordham University.



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