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What is Soma?

Soma is a thing of myth and legend – it is possibly a drug, possibly a plant and according to ancient texts it was at one time considered a god. Soma has been the focus of books and articles, television shows and movies. It played a prominent role in ancient history and today plays a significant role in modern pharmaceuticals. But wherever the beginnings of soma lie, the fact of the matter is that most substances called soma are addictive chemical or plant substances that taken consistently can lead to physical dependence and outright addiction. Understanding the history of this compound is crucial to developing drug treatment programs to help those who have become addicted to it.

The earliest references to soma were in ancient Indian texts called the Rigveda. Early Indo-Iranian peoples placed a great spiritual importance on the plant and often referred to it in conjunction with spiritual ceremony. These early societies also reported that the drug gave them energy and allowed them to communicate with the gods. This indicates that it’s likely the plant referred to as soma had psychoactive properties.

Despite an enormous amount of references to soma, no one knows exactly what plant these early peoples were referring to. There is a chance that whatever plant it was could be extinct now, or it could be a plant we know today. Some have suggested that the Ephedra plant could be a likely candidate, while others find it inconceivable to think that soma could be anything other than the poppy plant. According to the Wikipedia entry for Soma;

“A more plausible, realistic explanation may be that the plant is opium, the region’s best known and most cultivated narcotic crop.”Soma” is Vedic Sanskrit for “moon”, describing both the shape of the bulb and its nocturnal juice emission, which in ancient times would have been visible by moonlight only. This term may be derived from the Sanskrit words “rddhi” and “hrdya”, which mean “magical”, “a type of medicinal plant”, and “heart-pleasing.” (1)

Others have suggested that the plant could have been the infamous Amanita Muscaria, or “Magic Mushroom.” This fungus, known commonly as the Fly Agaric, can result in a condition called Sleeping Sickness when ingested, which features strange and transient hallucinations.

In his landmark book A Brave New World, Aldous Huxley refers to the hallucinogenic drug that most “modern” people in the story take on a regular basis as “soma.” This is likely a reference to the ancient Indian texts that mention soma as a pleasing, natural and safe mind-altering substance.

However, there is a drug today called Soma. Manufactured by an American pharmaceutical company, the drug by the brand name Soma is actually a muscle relaxant that has a high potential for abuse. And if the plant that ancient texts refer to as soma was indeed the Amanita, Ephedra or opium plant, then it makes sense to argue that both modern and ancient forms of soma feature addictive properties. Unfortunately, the Soma of today comes with other severe risks:

“More serious side effects include chills, depression, racing heartbeat, tightness in chest, vomiting, and unusual weakness. Withdrawal symptoms associated with Soma dependency include abdominal cramps, headache, insomnia, and nausea. Signs that an overdose has occurred include difficulty in breathing, shock, and coma. A Soma overdose may result in death.” (2)

But the fact of the matter is that these threats are similar for all illicit substances. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a drug problem, you can pick up the phone right now for a free, confidential consultation and put these risks behind you. Just call the number at the top of your screen – we have addiction experts standing by 24 hours a day to help guide you in the right direction with no obligation. Call us now.

(1) Wikipedia Soma
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soma
Accessed 10/17/2011

(2) National Drug Intelligence Center Soma Fast Facts
http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs10/10913/index.htm
Accessed 10/17/2011

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