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Planet Earth

Animals That Have Gotten High or Drunk

Cocaine Bear stumbled across 70 pounds of sweet-smelling cocaine powder that had literally dropped from the sky. It wasn’t the first animal to break from normal consciousness.

By Matt HrodeyMar 1, 2023 10:00 AM
Black bear
Black bear resting. (Credit: TangoFoxtrot2018/Shutterstock)


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You’ve heard of Cocaine Bear by now, the Georgia black bear that overdosed on cocaine dropped from a smuggler’s overburdened Cessna aircraft. But have you heard of Beer Bear?

In 2004, a curious bear raided a camper’s cooler at Baker Lake Resort in Washington State and somehow made off with about three dozen beers, including Rainier Beer and Busch (which he eschewed). While Rainier suffers from a “Poor” score at BeerAdvocate.com, the bear drank the grainy beer until it reached an altered state and sprawled out on a resort lawn to take in the sun. Officers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife found the bear there amid a pile of punctured empties.

Instead of popping the cans, the bear had apparently shot-gunned the beers by cutting into them with its claws and guiding the Rainier into its mouth. When confronted, the bear climbed a nearby tree and slept for about four hours and only later ran away. But it came back the next day, so the wildlife officials lured it into a humane trap baited with “doughnuts, honey, and in this case, two open cans of Rainier,” according to NBC news.

Read More: These 5 Animals Trip on Psychedelic and Psychoactive Drugs, Too

Wildlife and Drugs

Experts have questioned whether large animals, such as moose and elephants, can even get drunk, particularly from fermented apples and marula fruits, given their large body sizes. But black bears range in weight from 90 to 500 pounds, roughly twice the size range for humans. And the clawed Rainiers had seemed to have an effect.

Stories of animals, and even insects, seeking out mind-altering substances are legion. In Australia, local officials have a problem with diminutive wallabies feeding in “poppy fields, getting high as a kite, and going around in circles,” according to one farmer, who says wayward sheep would do the same thing, in an article with BBC.

House cats nuzzle catnip, and big-horned sheep reportedly nibble on psychedelic lichen. Young dolphins may or may not get stoned on pufferfish venom.

Many researchers have served alcohol to honeybees, which will readily drink straight ethanol and have become a model for human alcoholism. Still, other researchers provided alcohol to vervet monkeys and found that while they tippled willingly, the younger members drank more than the old, perhaps so the latter could keep their wits about them.

Cocaine Bear and the Effects

But are these bees and bears having fun? Most likely, Cocaine Bear died a horrible death after consuming a massive amount of the sweet-smelling powder, which it may have mistaken for food.

The Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, which owns the stuffed Cocaine Bear, tracked down the medical examiner who examined it, and he said that the bear had suffered, “Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it; that bear had it.”

Read More: Meet the Animals That Self-Medicate

The impact may be devastating, and research has found that animals, particularly rats, can even become addicted to cocaine. One study found that animals will sometimes refuse food in favor of more of the drug and walk across electrified floors. Another investigation concluded that cocaine may work in part by activating a stimulating inflammatory response in the brain.

Ultimately, though, experts don't know why animals in the wild got drunk or geeked-out.

Similar confusion surrounds the use of catnip, which can result in aggressive or erratic behavior in cats. Some question whether cats are choosing the experience or just being "dosed" by their owners.

“If it is unethical to drug a child and to laugh at how he or she responds,” writes one columnist in The Conversation, “should we unthinkingly do the same with our cats?”

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