Drugs where the sun don’t shine: a cultural history

Through the history of humanity, every culture has made use of psychoactive substances. While smoking, eating and injecting have generated most interest, taking drugs through the nether regions has a remarkably long history.

Firstly, let’s get your burning question out of the way. The reason someone might want to administer drugs through the vagina or anus is because these areas have two properties that make them excellent drug delivery systems: they are moist and they have an excellent blood supply.

This means drugs will be absorbed into the bloodstream and reach the brain very quickly – often more quickly than if you drank the substance.

We know why this works due to medical research, but as we wander through the history of downstairs doping, you may wish to take a moment to reflect on how this remarkable fact was first discovered.

The earliest accounts of rectal administration of psychoactive drugs come from the Ancient Mayan civilization where ritual enemas were commonly used to induce states of trance and were widely depicted on carvings and pottery.

The image above is a Mayan carving depicting a priest giving reclining man a large ritual enema to the point where he sees winged reptile Gods flying overhead. Sorry hipsters, your parties suck.

It wasn’t just the Mayans, though. The historical use of psychoactive enemas was known throughout the Americas and is still used by traditional societies today.

Unfortunately, we know little about the history of similar practices in Africa but they are certainly present in traditional societies today – and largely known to mainstream science through documented medical emergencies.

In contrast, while it seems that enemas and douching were often used in Ancient Europe (for example, Aristides writes in his Sacred Tales that the goddess Athena appeared to him in a dream and recommended a honey enema – thanks your holiness), they do not seem to have been used for bottom-up drug taking.

However, there is some evidence that in medieval Europe, hallucinogenic ointments were applied to the vagina with some speculation that the ‘witch on a flying broomstick’ cliché arose due to the use of a broomstick-like applicator for strongly psychoactive drugs.

As the first synthesised psychoactive drugs became available in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, specialised delivery devices were quickly developed.

Cocaine was especially likely to be applied down-below because, although it makes you high, it is also an excellent local anaesthetic useful for discomfort and minor surgery. The development of cocaine tampons was considered a medical innovation that was “regarded as an especially effective treatment for gynecological diseases”.

The application of psychoactive drugs into the anus is a small but essential part of modern medicine. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency where someone has an epileptic seizure that doesn’t end by itself. It is potentially fatal.

The single best way of ending the seizure is through the use of drugs like lorazepam or diazepam (better known as Vallium). But if someone is unconscious and possibly shaking, trying to get them to swallow a pill could be very dangerous. Hence, the drug is often put straight into the back passage. This has saved countless lives and may, one day, save yours.

Recreationally, both vaginal and anal cocaine use have been reported in the medical literature and popular culture. Unfortunately though, most cases of cavity cocaine highs are not from recreational users but smugglers who have hidden drugs in their body and had the packets burst – sending them to hospital with drug toxicity.

For those wondering whether the modern world has truly mastered the art of the half-height high, you need look no further than ‘butt chugging’ – the frat boy practice of absorbing alcohol through the anus either via a tube or via a booze-soaked tampon.

Police reports suggested that the University of Tennessee chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity decided to have a butt chugging party which promptly sent fraternity member Alexander Brougthon to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning.

This led to quite possibly one of the oddest incidents in the history of derrière drug taking: a live press conference where the entire fraternity and their lawyer addressed the media to deny the incident ever happened.

After the lawyer gives a strongly worded denial, Brougthon reads his statement. “The scandalous accusations surrounding that event never happened and I completely deny them,” he says. “At this point,” he continues, “my intent is to clear my name”.

One of the press pack asks a question. “Alexander, can you clarify what did happen that day?”

He looks distraught. “It’s a long story” he says.

8 thoughts on “Drugs where the sun don’t shine: a cultural history”

      1. Apparently coffee enemas affect people differently, while a lot of people claim to become “jittery” from them there are a lot of people (myself included) who find coffee enemas to be surprisingly relaxing.

  1. ObjectiveReality is right, caffeine will not counteract the manner in which ethanol binds gamma-amino acid receptors thus inhibiting neurotransmission. It is still, however, somewhat useful in making a drunken person more aroused (wired?) by causing an increase in the availability of cellular calcium that catalyzes a number of reactions including those that produce ATP (energy). I cannot recall what IS used to treat ethanol poisoning (anybody?) but an intravenous injection of some other stimulant would be quicker than oral or anal administration.

    If the desire is to get one’s drug of choice working as quickly as possible without having to deal with the risks involved in direct injection or the mess of anal administration there is another tried and true method. The area just under your tongue contains a thin membrane densely populated with arteries and veins. This allows for the quick absorption of many drugs and works on the same principal as placing it “where the sun don’t shine.” Perhaps the greatest benefit of this method is that the average stoned idiot will have to keep his mouth shut for a while.

    Incidentally, I do not condone the use of any drug without the expressed written consent of a doctor. However, it is in the interest of safety and common sense that I offer this suggestion.

  2. Intriguing article but two things:

    “The earliest accounts of rectal administration of psychoactive drugs come from the Ancient Mayan civilization”

    Niggly-seeming, but “Mayan” with the -n is only properly used in reference to written or spoken Maya languages. You can say “The Mayan word for tick is pech”. You can’t say, well, “the Ancient Mayan civilization”.

    We archaeologists kind of use this one as a shibboleth. When we (or you, or anyone else) see “Mayan” used wrong, alarm bells go off. People who use “Mayan” also end up talking about crystal skulls and spirit paths and which ever site is Atlantis today.


    The other thing is that it isn’t quite correct to say that the earliest accounts of rectal administration of drugs come from the Maya. I work at a Bolivian site and all the statues there are holding hallucinogenic enemas (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cerickso/anth533c.jpg: enema plus snuff tablet! Party!). This site totally overlaps with the Classic Maya. Various artefacts from the Andes (some of it pre-dating the Maya or at least the Maya art you are referencing) are believed to show the use of hallucinogenic enemas.

    Saying “one of the earliest accounts…Maya” would sort you out.

    Now this Latin American archaeologist needs to get herself back to work.

  3. it is an oddly unexplained need that is driving me to contribute here..however.. the subject is one that i feel should be expanded beyond the short sensored piece that i just read here.. to do the subject proper one should discuss the stigma and taboo attached in further detail.. perhaps a mention of the pre-A.I.D.S.gay cultures momentary trend with shooting speed up the butt (though im no expert on the period i did seek advice from a gay couple who i once worked for as to the best method to properly “plug” my prescribed medication and they enjoyed reminiscing about the openness of the pre-A.I.D.S. period)…And it might do the write up justice to further discuss the tendancy for those who are unfamiliar with the route of administration to stigmatise anyone who contemplates this “taboo”.. personally i find the medication that im prescribed very foul tasting even though its directed as a sublingual medication.. so on mornings where i cant stomach the idea i mix it into a few drops of warm water and plug it with a clean veterinary syringe (no needle of course) and the method haa several benefits..one being avoiding the taste and the second is that since this route bypasses the liver i find i need only half the oral dose to attain the needed effect. I imagine this would be true for recreational substances as well..

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