Drugs in the Bronze Age: NPR podcast

In a podcast for NPR, Benjamin Breen, associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, spoke about the results of a new study finding that Bronze Age people used psychoactive drugs, perhaps as part of ancient rituals, as evidenced by the presence of chemicals in 3,000-year-old hairs found in a burial cave in Menorca off the Spanish Coast.

The World's host Marco Werman spoke with Breen about the study's conclusions and what can be learned about the early relationship between humans and psychoactive drugs.

Breen’s book The Age of Intoxication (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) explores how drug users and sellers in the British and Portuguese empires helped to shape imperialism, global trade, and scientific practice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In the book, Breen delved into a time when drugs were not yet separated into the categories that are in use in the 21st centuiry—illicit and permissable, recreational and medicinal, modern and traditional—during a period in history when there was no separation between what people would now call "drug dealer" and "pharmacist."

Breen's book 2021 William H. Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.