Mankind have used drugs and other substances since the dawn of time to get into a different state of mind. But new research suggests that orangutans and other great apes like to put themselves in a similar state.

A recent British study shows that not only people like to change their state of mind with, for example, drugs. Orangutans and other hominids* have their own way of achieving the same effect.

Spins at high speeds

They love spinning in ropes and vines at high speeds – often until they get so dizzy that they lose their balance and fall down. On average, the monkeys spun 5.4 revolutions in three rounds, at a speed of 1.5 revolutions per second. Spinning so fast, according to the researchers, is reminiscent in intensity of a Sufi Dervish Dance, which can induce an altered state of mind.

Orangutans also spin more and faster than other hominids. It is interpreted as that they are more used to lianas than, for example, gorillas, and therefore need to take in more to achieve the same effect.

Animals that get drunk

There are also many studies and observations of how, for instance elks, elephants and monkeys can become intoxicated by fermented fruit or alcoholic beverages. As fruit eaters, they have adapted genetically during evolution and received a mutation that allows them to break down alcohol molecules. The result is intoxication, but for predators and marine species that do not have this mutation, alcohol can be dangerous instead.

An ancient consciousness

The researchers do not rule out that alcohol intoxication in animals may be about wanting to ingest calories. That makes this study more interesting, because it shows a clearer connection to wanting to achieve a different state of consciousness, or at least the desire to get buzzed.

If the desire to become dizzy is the same in both humans and other hominids, it may have already existed in our common ancestor some seven million years ago. Perhaps even further back in time. It may indicate the existence of a consciousness, according to the researchers behind this study.

Facts Hominids*
Humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos (dwarf chimpanzees) belong to the same family of primates and are called hominids. What we have in common, among other things, is that we lack a tail.