By some combination of changes in both the environment, and human biology, humans evolved on Earth in a way that basically makes them 100% unable to alter their minds using traditional methods:

  • Alcohol has no mental effects
  • No hallucinogens or other drugs work or are available

How would this deviation affect human development as a species?

To clarify:

  • The addition via dopamine is still possible (you can get addicted to video games or sex or Facebook).

    But you don't have an option to imbibe/use any chemicals or products that alter your mental state in a measurable manner as one of those addictive things.

  • Some of the "real world" mind altering substances are still available (e.g, you can still brew beer so you can't claim that "according to latest research, beer significantly helped by making nutritious and bacteria free drink"). You just don't get drunk from that beer, at least the mental effects of getting drunk. You can still distill wine, and not have humans die out from drinking contaminated water in Middle Ages. Just no drunks.

  • The mind altering effect of "natural" things still exist. E.g. you have the same effects from lack of sleep as real humans do; or from malnutrition/dehydration; or from oxygen-poor air.

I'm interested in a couple of different but related angles:

  • Would it affect the biology and evolution in meaningful way?

  • Would it affect broad historical or cultural patterns in a meaningful way? I'm interested in stuff up until let's say a level of development of early or mid 20th century civilization wise.

  • $\begingroup$ I wonder how many ancient conflicts could have been avoided if no one could get into drunken brawls... $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 19 '15 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ The brain drowns/dilutes neurons with non-alcoholic chemical so that the neurons are subjected to cross-talk or silent treatment. Are you suggesting somehow the neurons have perfected the art of telepathy? I'm afraid evolution couldn't keep up with your tales, you need artificial augmentation. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jul 19 '15 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 - if you have references for that, it'd make a good answer $\endgroup$ – Viola Molin Jul 19 '15 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand maybe Darwin can come up with a unique way that alcohol will not get absorbed into our bloodstream readily or another closed loop blood circulation system with extra tiny heart in the brain, future is wild hee hee. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jul 19 '15 at 5:59
  • $\begingroup$ A vast array array of compounds alter the mind and one's mental state. Water, sugar, and oxygen come to mind. I'm worried the answer to your question may depend more on the line in the sand you draw between "mind altering chemical" and otherwise than it will depend on the concept of there being no mind altering chemicals. As a related question, are raw dopamine injections mind altering? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 19 '15 at 5:59

The definition of substance and mind-altering are going to give some problems. Eating to much makes you feel full -- that substance altered your mind. But let's go with the presumed intent of the question, not quibble over details.

  • More revolutions as people cannot drown their problems? Drugs can make people accept hardship (chewing coca leaves, grog on sailing ships) so talking that away might make them protest more.
  • A rational society? Many religions can trace their roots to stoned shamans. Without those precursors, would slightly more sober religions have developed?
  • Hospital wards full of screaming people? No pain relief medicine. That's going to make a difference to medical care, both regarding survival rates and when it comes to the ethics of terminal patients.
  • End of mass incarceration? No drug cartels and war on drugs to destabilize growing regions and consuming regions alike. Some nations reacted with mass incarceration, which had lots of side effects. Especially if felons are denied the right to vote for the rest of their life.
  • $\begingroup$ Does pain reliever action of morphin work via the same mechanism as mind-altering one? $\endgroup$ – Viola Molin Jul 19 '15 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ViolaMolin The mind-altering sides of morphine start from their effect of stimulating the opiod receptors very strongly. The brain is simply reacting to the change in chemicals and seeking to retain balance. It just finds a new balance that is different enough that we elect to call it "an altered state of mind." Failure to respond in this way would likely leave the brain with too few closed feedback loops to function (Not provably, but if you look at how the brain works in general, EVERYTHING is a feedback loop) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 19 '15 at 17:20

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