Mescaline is a hallucinogenic chemical compound which originates naturally in peyote (Lophophora williamsii), a species of cactus which is native to Mexico and Texas. While mescaline most often comes from peyote, it can also come from certain species of cactus in Peru. Chemists are also capable of synthesizing mescaline in laboratories.
People use mescaline as a recreational drug to experience euphoria and hallucinations. Some people have also used mescaline to enhance meditation or supplement therapy. Mescaline users introduce the drug into their bloodstream by chewing, smoking, or ingesting parts of the peyote plant. These parts are sometimes called “buttons,” and they are extracted from the peyote plant’s roots. Other users skip the peyote and prefer to consume mescaline as a pill or as a brew, both of which are made from mescaline in the form of white powder. It is also possible to inject liquid mescaline intravenously, although this method is uncommon. Mescaline is a relatively rare drug because the peyote cactus, the most prevalent source of the drug, is rare itself. Consequently, drug traffickers sometimes sell more common hallucinogens like PCP and claim that they are mescaline.
Effects and Risks of Mescaline
The effects of using mescaline usually begin within one or two hours of consumption and they most often persist for about 12 hours. Mescaline users report a variety of reactions to the drug. Hallucinogens affect people differently depending on several factors, such as the size of the dose, whether the person has used hallucinogenic drugs in the past, and the person’s emotional state prior to taking the substance. Some mescaline users report feeling profound peace and sensations of transcendence. However, people who are living with mental illness when they take the drug are more likely to suffer its worst possible effects, such as prolonged psychosis.
In general, mescaline causes visual and auditory hallucinations. These may vary in intensity from person to person. The drug may also profoundly distort a person’s perceptions of reality. Some users experience enhanced senses, such as better hearing and vision, but they will likely be unable to concentrate or think clearly. Mescaline is also known to cause synesthesia, or a mixing of senses, where one “sees a sound” or “hears a color.”
Although a mescaline trip may be enjoyable for some users, other users may experience severe anxiety, confusion, depression, and paranoia. Mescaline certainly has the power to cause psychological harm. A “bad trip” on mescaline often involves terrifying hallucinations which may be traumatizing. While regular users easily develop tolerance for the drug’s effects, this tolerance is temporary. There is little evidence that physical addiction to mescaline is possible. However, psychological dependence certainly is. Someone with Mescaline dependence will feel cravings for the drug which compel them to habitually use it.
Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that mescaline or peyote are useful as medicine. In fact, adverse physical symptoms sometimes characterize mescaline “trips.” These symptoms include chills, numbness, nausea, and hypertension.
The Complicated Legal Status of Mescaline and Peyote
Under the Controlled Substances Act, mescaline and peyote are Schedule I controlled substances, meaning that the United States federal government regards them as high-risk drugs with no legitimate medical purpose. Using and possessing mescaline or peyote are crimes for which Americans may be sentenced to pay six-figure fines and serve many years in prison.
Mescaline is not a new drug. In fact, peyote has been used in the Americas for hundreds of years. The Aztecs in Mexico revered peyote as a sacred plant which they believed gave them access to the spirit world. Even today, many Native American groups consider peyote to be an essential component of their spiritual traditions. Although peyote is a Schedule I controlled substance, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government must allow adherents of certain Native American spiritual groups to use peyote as part of their religion. Therefore, peyote as a religious object is legal to use and possess in specific cases. Even though peyote is illegal in Mexico, the Mexican government does ensure access to harvesting the cactus for several recognized Native American tribes who require peyote to preserve their culture. However, the Mexican government forbids most Mexicans and all tourists visiting the country from harvesting peyote.