In a commercial sense, tobacco did not reach its heights until the end of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). By that time, American colonies already existed that were fully capable of taking part in the emerging trade economy. In fact, this economy mostly rested on tobacco from the colonies in North America, purified alcohol and raw sugar from the tropics outposts. The Age of Enlightenment was firmly grounded in a drug-based economy.
The introduction of tobacco to Europe was accompanied by an amazing process: due to the emphasis on recreational potential and the large-scale cultivation of the less toxic of the two main types – Nicotiana tabacum, tobacco lost its importance as a shaman plant and hallucinogenic nature of the action. This was more than a matter of changing the standard dose and method of administration. Natural tobacco, which I have tried, being among the various peoples of the Amazon, is very disturbed orientation and was subtoxic. He clearly had the ability to cause altered states of consciousness. The tobacco use habit that arose in Europe was purely secular and aimed at “invigoration”, and therefore the mildest types were considered to be commercially beneficial.
As soon as any specific remedy is found, it often goes through a testing process — dilution, dilution — before reaching the most desirable level of action for all. The transition from eating opium or hashish to smoking these substances, as well as switching from large doses of LSD in the 1960s to the current practice of taking small (for rest and recuperation), was just such a process. This latter transition could have been the result of a small, but constantly present, percentage of people suffering from serious nervous disorders after consuming large doses of LSD. The idea of the “correct” dose of a substance is something that a culture creates over time. (There are, of course, completely opposite examples:the shift from inhaling sprayed cocaine through the nose to smoking crack cocaine is an example of a shift towards larger doses and more dangerous methods of consumption).