Economic Botany

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 295–297 | Cite as

Nicotiana an hallucinogen?

  • Oscar Janiger
  • Marlene Dobkin de Rios


1). The anthropological evidence as well as recent chemical considerations suggest that the peripheral autonomic effects of nicotine in tobacco would not be those primarily sought after by traditional societies for magico-religious, divinatory or ceremonial use.

2). Variations in species potency due to variables of climate, soil composition, etc., may explain reported differences in self-reports on consciousness alterations fromNicotiana use.

3). A series of intervening cultural variables is crucial in situations where alterations in consciousness are valued and expected. Although there have been no controlled studies of the possible consciousness-altering effects of tobacco smoking in man, this may be due to several factors: (a) the effects hypothesized may not have been specifically sought after; (b) the effects may be greatly variable and depend upon the setting, the personality of the smoker, the quality of the tobacco, the amount taken and the culturally-determined expectations of its use; (c) the effects of harman and norharman may be cumulative, with a greater propensity for these effects in chronic smokers.

As with Cannabis, it is possible that novitiates who smoke tobacco must learn to recognize its effects through observation, imitative behavior and actual instruction. As Westerners are most familiar with alcohol as a means of altering consciousness, it is possible that tobacco-induced altered states of consciousness are just not recognized. Perhaps the Westerner prefers to bask in the glow that William James described in this context, as coming after the third highball.


Nicotine Smoke Economic Botany Ecstasy Harman 
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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oscar Janiger
    • 1
  • Marlene Dobkin de Rios
    • 2
  1. 1.University of California School of MedicineIrvine
  2. 2.Medical Anthropology ProgramUniversity of CaliforniaSan Francisco

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