Marijuana and Magic Mushrooms

Long Story Short

Russian Scientists believe marijuana and magic mushrooms may have been used as anesthetics during a 3,000-year-old brain surgery. The International Journal of Osteoarchaeology published the study which suggests natural hallucinogens such as marijuana and magic mushrooms were combined with rhythmic music to reduce the pain that was caused by the primitive surgical instruments of their time.

The Details

The study on how brain disease was treated in the Bronze Age, was performed on a 3,000-year-old subject that died between the ages of 30 and 40.

He was found at the Nefteprovod II burial ground in the Anzhevsk archeological site. The subject was a part of the Karasuk culture that inhabited the region of western Siberia.

The subjects skull was found at the Anzhevsky burial ground one year ago. It appeared to have a hole chiseled into the left parietal lobe. This led scientists to believe the subject had been through a successful brain surgery during ancient times.

Dr. Sergey Slepchenko, of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, told The Siberian Times that the patient survived the initial procedure but probably died during their recovery period from complications.

Additionally, the remains of 13 more people from the Bronze Age had similar holes in their left parietal lobe. A 2016 study concluded that the majority of these brain surgery patients “survived the intervention for a long time.”

“The key to successful surgery was the patient’s complete trust and confidence that the surgeon had the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out such an operation.”

During this time in Russia they did not have the tools, we use in surgeries. They also didn’t have the painkillers. Scientists suggested natural hallucinogens that were accessible to the culture were used as painkillers.

Certain plants known to have been used by other ancient cultures for painkilling were not in the Eurasia region where the skull was found.

However, juniper, thyme, wild rosemary sticks, hallucinogenic fly agaric mushrooms, and marijuana are believed to have played a pivotal role in the birth of Eurasian civilization.

One or more of these along with chanting and beating of rhythmic drums may have been used to put patients into an altered state of mind to numb pain. This theory comes from the known shamanistic practices that occurred during this time.

Cannabis has been found to relieve chronic pain, not enough for us to undergo surgery with confidence, but this may have been one of the only tools these ancient people had.

“The surgeon probably stood face-to-face to the patient on the left side. Or the surgeon may have fixed the head with his left arm or between his knees operated with his right hand,” Dr. Slepchenko said.

He added that the skin on the patient’s skull would need to be peeled back by an assistant before the surgeon scraped into the bone with a utensil unknown to use today.

A knife that was believed to be used by the Karasuk people was found next to the ancient remains, but it is not certain if that was used in the surgery.

According to Dr. Slepchenko, one of the most dangerous complications from brain surgery is “bleeding which develops immediately after the skin incision.

To minimize bleeding and reduce pain, the operation had to be carried out as fast as possible by presumably highly-skilled surgeons. It is not clear how they stopped the bleeding.”

The Final Hit

There is evidence of cannabis use in several ancient cultures, but this is the first time marijuana may have been used to assist in brain surgery. Even though scientists believe more than half of the subjects found to have undergone ancient brain surgery survived. Modern day surgery now seems a lot less scary than taking some shrooms and having “complete trust and confidence that the surgeon had the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out such an operation.”