When you think about drugs that are found in nature, as opposed to those created in a laboratory somewhere, your mind probably goes to fields trees and bushes in South and Central American, or maybe poppy flowers in Afghanistan. One thing that isn’t likely to come to mind is a cactus in the Southwestern United States, but there’s a powerful hallucinogenic that’s been used for centuries derived from a spineless cactus called peyote. The cactus has little protrusions called buttons, which can be cut off and sliced up and dried. They’re then either chewed or soaked in water and the liquid is consumed. The resulting drug is called mescaline, although people sometimes incorrectly use the terms mescaline and peyote interchangeably.
Mescaline is an amphetamine and the principal active psychedelic compound in peyote. It is also found in two types of cactus in Peru, the San Pedro cactus and the Peruvian Torch cactus. Because it has a fairly limited growing area, the drug isn’t readily available. It can be produced synthetically in a laboratory. People sometimes sell PCP or LSD claiming that they’re mescaline.
In the U.S. mescaline is listed as a Schedule I hallucinogen under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a high potential for addiction and no valid medical use. Despite not being approved for any of these uses by the FDA, people use mescaline for treating fevers, joint pain (rheumatism), and paralysis. It is also applied to the skin to treat fractures, wounds, and snakebites.
Mescaline can cause nausea and vomiting, anxiety, paranoia, fear, emotional instability, changes in vision, drooling, headache, dizziness, and drowsiness. It can also raise blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. It’s not usually fatal, but the hallucinations that result can cause homicidal, psychotic, or suicidal behavior.
Mescaline has long been used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies. At one point, this was prohibited by U.S. law, but in 1978 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed, protecting the rights of Native Americans to practice traditional religions, including “access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.” It was amended in 1994 to provide for the protected use of peyote as a sacrament in traditional religious ceremonies.
Some of the psychological effects of mescaline are vivid mental images, distorted vision, synesthesia (the perception of seeing music or hearing colors), altered space and time perception, joy, exhilaration, distorted sense of body weight, heightened senses (brighter colors, sharper vision, increased hearing, increased taste), and difficulty focusing, maintaining attention, concentrating, and thinking. It can sometimes cause negative reactions, or bad trips, that can include frightening hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, depression, panic, and terror.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.