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Animals and Psychedelics: The Natural World and Its Instinct to Alter Consciousness: The Natural World and the Instinct to Alter Consciousness Paperback – 12 Sep 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions Bear and Company (12 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892819863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892819867
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Samorini offers support for the possibility that this activity may expand the behavioral repertoire, thus altering evolution. Provocative reading. -- Julie Holland, MD Editor, Ecstasy: The Complete Guide Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Bellevue Psychiatric Emergency Department

Samorini's observations support his controversial hypothesis that human drug-taking derives from a universal biologically-based drive to alter consciousness. -- Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico School of Medicine

This must be one of the most important books about animals - or drugs - that you are likely to read. -- Mark Pilkington, Fortean Times, December 2002

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Chapter Six

The most famous example of "collective drunkenness" in birds is that of American robins during their annual February migration to California, and in particular to the small town of Pleasant Hill. The amazing behavior of these birds on their arrival first made news in the 1930s.
Once they reach California, flocks of thousands of robins (the species Turdus migratorius) perch on small ornamental trees popularly known as California holly, though the Native Americans of the region call this scarlet fruit toyon. At this time of year the trees are laden with scarlet fruits called Christmas or holly berries. The robins, and other kinds of birds as well, gorge themselves on these fruits, bingeing until they are blatantly drunk. For about three weeks this region unintentionally hosts what can only be called a drunken orgy on the part of the birds, who become disoriented and confused, engaging in silly games with each other and fluttering wildly into cars and houses.
Ronald K. Siegel, who has studied this phenomenon with great attention, notes that although four or five holly berries would suffice to make a full meal, a single robin will gobble down as many as thirty at a time. Clearly the purpose of such gorging transcends simple nutrition; it would seem conclusive that the birds recognize and remember the fruit and seek out the intoxication induced by eating massive doses of it. In his book Intoxication: Life in Pursuit of Artificial Paradise, Siegel describes the behavior of a flock of about three thousand American robins after their arrival in Pleasant Hill. Excerpts from his observations follow.
"They quickly work their way to the outermost branches which begin to sag under their collective weight. As the branches wobble, so do the birds and they [the birds] start falling. Four birds are staggering on the ground, unable to fly. . . . [Now] there are eighteen birds on the ground. Several are still grasping berries in their beaks. A lone starling pilfers a berry right out of the locked beak of a robin. . . . A group of birds on the start of another feeding frenzy flies directly into my head and body. . . . I am driving in low gear to the edge of the field. There are thumps against the roof, then a robin smashes into the windshield. . . . Several birds are stunned momentarily when they fly into the windows and sides of houses. On the side of the road I find four more birds that have been killed in collisions with cars. . . . I performed autopsies on the dead birds. [They] revealed that the stomach, and sometimes the throat, of every bird was full of toyon berries, accounting for approximately 5 percent of their total body weight. Neither the stomach contents nor the berries themselves showed evidence of fermentation or alcohol. . . . Death was caused by a massive trauma inflicted by the collisions, secondary to an unknown intoxication" (Siegel 1989, 58-59).
Apparently, then, there have been no true cases of overdose in the robins and other birds who get high on the holly berries, and the only fatalities-very few, statistically speaking-are due to the presence of human beings: their cars, windows, and random acts of brutality. The local press, which almost every year dedicates a paragraph or two to the bizarre behavior of the migrating robins, frequently refers to the deaths of birds who have flown into cars or houses as "suicides," a misnomer and completely erroneous interpretation of the facts.
During the same time period and in the same region of California, birds become intoxicated on the fruits of yet another shrub, Pyracantha, a member of the rose family popularly known as firethorn. In this case, the birds act "like winged clowns: flying, falling, and hopping about in the most erratic, albeit entertaining, ways. Some were found fluttering in the dirt with wings awry, teasing backyard cats. Others teetered on window ledges and pecked at their reflections. Because firethorns were often planted near homes and roads, collisions with windows and cars were reported more frequently than with toyon" (Siegel 1989, 60).
The bark of the toyon tree was used by the Native tribes of California for tanning, while its fruits were roasted and eaten or brewed to make an intoxicating cider. However, it is not yet known precisely which substances in these sour, scarlet fruits are responsible for their inebriant effects on birds or humans, who have sometimes experienced delirium and visions after drinking toyon cider. Possibly they are due to the presence of psychoactive saponins, since another case of collective "drunken" bird binges hinges on Tartarian honeysuckle, a source of similar saponins. Tartarian honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, is a shrub native to Asia but widely cultivated along the eastern coast of the United States. In this case as well, robins are the birds most attracted by its intoxicating berries.
In 1926 J. Grinnell observed the behavior of these birds in his garden: "There were dozens of robins on the bushes and everywhere on the ground. They appeared tame and dazed. Some lay on the earth in the dirt with their wings awry. I regretted the fact that their condition rendered the birds unusually easy to catch by our cat, who seemed to know very well that he could catch one any time he felt like it." This avian disruption peaks in June, when the plant's berries are ripest and most colorful.


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
This humorous and entertaining book deals with the use of psychedelic substances by our 4-footed and 6-legged friends. The author, an ethnobotanist, provides amazing examples of animals and insects seeking out and consuming psycho-active substances in their environments.
Samorini suggests that the desire to experience altered states of consciousness is a natural drive shared by all living beings. This urge is not confined to humans because animals/insects deliberately engage in these behaviors. His theory is that beings that consume these substances contribute to the evolution of their species by creating new patterns of behavior that are eventually adopted by the other members of the species, in what he humorously terms “evolution by inebriation.”
He deals with crazed cows who love locoweed (Astralagus), elephants, slugs and snails, felines and catnip, reindeer and caribou tripping on the Amanita mushroom, goats that have a liking for coffee and khat (Catha Edulis), birds that binge (robins and the pink pigeon of the Mauritian islands), koalas, baboons and rats, plus insects like the house fly (Amanita again), moths, bees and butterflies.
Samorini concludes with the observation that a distinction must be made between a drug phenomenon that is natural and a drug problem that is a cultural problem. This insightful book concludes with a bibliography and index.
Other interesting titles on this topic includes DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, Moksha by Aldous Huxley, Magic Mushrooms In Religion And Alchemy by Clark Heinrich and Persephone’s Quest by R. Gordon Wasson.
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By suzie on 6 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the best 'loo' books! Awesome read xx
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Snow Falcon on 14 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
A very interesting read with fascinating facts - how animals get high on natural substances (not just humans!)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Evolution by inebriation! 4 Dec. 2003
By Peter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This humorous and entertaining book deals with the use of psychedelic substances by our 4-footed and 6-legged friends. The author, an ethnobotanist, provides amazing examples of animals and insects seeking out and consuming psycho-active substances in their environments.
Samorini suggests that the desire to experience altered states of consciousness is a natural drive shared by all living beings. This urge is not confined to humans because animals/insects deliberately engage in these behaviors. His theory is that beings that consume these substances contribute to the evolution of their species by creating new patterns of behavior that are eventually adopted by the other members of the species, in what he humorously terms "evolution by inebriation."
He deals with crazed cows who love locoweed (Astralagus), elephants, slugs and snails, felines and catnip, reindeer and caribou tripping on the Amanita mushroom, goats that have a liking for coffee and khat (Catha Edulis), birds that binge (robins and the pink pigeon of the Mauritian islands), koalas, baboons and rats, plus insects like the house fly (Amanita again), moths, bees and butterflies.
Samorini concludes with the observation that a distinction must be made between a drug phenomenon that is natural and a drug problem that is a cultural problem. This insightful book concludes with a bibliography and index.
Other interesting titles on this topic includes DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, Moksha by Aldous Huxley, Magic Mushrooms In Religion And Alchemy by Clark Heinrich and Persephone's Quest by R. Gordon Wasson.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Lucy in the sky with felines 16 Dec. 2003
By Brian Wallace (Co-author of It's Not Your Hair) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a powerful, dazzling display of authority on subject matter that gives "animals" their rightful place among "humans" as proud and adept explorers of the more interesting entheogenic realms.
This work, without over doing it on the anthropomorphic side, renders our fellow animals in a positive light that suggests they, too, have their very own forms of consciousness.
Very enlightening, heady stuff!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Understanding our Inner Beast 3 Dec. 2008
By Dr. Barton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Your appreciation of this book will depend on how deep your understanding of drugs and the psyche is. If you have a respectable grasp of the chemistries and behaviors of psychoactive drugs, very little of this book will surprise you though you will find it interesting. Unfortunately, Samorini does little in this book other than mention various uses of plant-based psychoactive by animals. There is almost no detailed analysis or speculation of what this use might mean to human self-understanding except to add support the premise that psychoactive drug use pre-dates human existence.

On the other hand, if you are novice in this area, then you will appreciate the broad spectrum of animals that Samorini discusses and the quick, easy read it is to get through the information. This is a great starting place from which to launch a high school through college paper or a light evening's reading.

One point that irks me about this book is that Samorini based much of it off information in Ronald Siegel's "Intoxication". Although I enjoyed "Animals and Psychedelics" and plan to keep it in my library, part of me think that I should have read Siegel's book instead.
Insightful! 20 April 2012
By bigtrees - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very insightful look into why people engage in this frequently risky behavior which has been demonized by the self-appointed moral defenders of society. If wild animals take drugs then there is a 100% chance that our non-human ancestors also took drugs. Taking drugs has been with us since before we were humans - it is a natural, and indeed essential, part of being human.

While imposing some degree of risk to the individual drug-taker, the practice also yields benefits to the population as a whole by allowing it to break from old patterns of behavior and find new and alternate ways to meet its needs. In humans, there is one group of people in particular well known for taking drugs and who constantly and publicly communicate their understanding of reality back to the rest of society - allowing the rest of the population to benefit from their insights. They can be heard on the Jazz stations, the Rock stations, the Blues, Hip Hop and Reggae stations. They are of course...
Fascinating and comforting 23 May 2011
By Shane Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though very short (88 pgs), this book shines a light on the natural desire (arguably an instinct) experienced by a subset of many species of life (including human) to intentionally partake of the naturally occurring consciousness altering substances that the natural world has to offer. He strips the cultural morality of right & wrong, good & bad from the discussion of inebriation and looks at the multi-secies web of the phenomenon of consciousness altering. He credits a great deal of his research to Ronald K. Siegel, Ph.D.'s work titled 'Intoxication' (link below)...I'll be reading it next. ;o)

Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances
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