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Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug that comes from several different species of cacti, and it can also be made synthetically.
Peyote (Lophophora diffusa or Lophophora williamsii) is a small spiny cactus that grows in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Two other species of cacti, the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) and the Peruvian Torch cactus (Trichocereus peruvianus) grow in South America. All of these cacti are used as sources of mescaline, and this limits the distribution of natural forms of the drug; however, a synthetic form is also available in capsule form.
Typically, mescaline is obtained from the cacti by taking the “buttons” (small protrusions at the top of the cacti) and chewing them or making a tea. The synthetic option can be taken in pill or capsule form.
Mescaline use has a long history. It was used for centuries as a medicinal drug as well as a mind-expanding drug that was considered to have spiritual properties. For example, the Aztecs considered peyote divine and used it frequently. Its use spread from Mexico into North America to Native American groups who routinely used it for medicinal and religious purposes. Even though mescaline is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), certain Native American groups still have the legal right to use the drug in religious services. Otherwise, the drug is considered to be potentially dangerous due to the DEA’s stance that it has no medicinal purposes and is likely to cause psychological dependence or an abuse syndrome in individuals who regularly use it (although, as outlined below, this stance is somewhat inconsistent with the research regarding mescaline).
As mentioned, mescaline can also be produced in the laboratory synthetically. It was first synthesized in the early 1900s.
According to the books Drugs and Society and Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior, the following is true of mescaline:
Even though it appears that mescaline is not a major drug of abuse, it is still used by a number of people, mostly younger individuals.
As mentioned above, individuals who use mescaline often cut the buttons off the cactus and then dry them. They are either chewed or soaked in liquids and made into drinks like teas. In some instances, the drug may be smoked. The synthetic drug may be taken in a tablet or powder form.
A person who takes mescaline typically begins to feel the psychoactive effects of the drug within 1-2 hours after ingesting it. General effects include:
The majority of sources that have investigated the potential for abuse of mescaline indicate the following:
Tolerance to mescaline develops very rapidly. Tolerance occurs when an individual no longer gets the same effects from the typical dose they have been using. The individual finds that as they continue to use a drug or medication, they need more of the drug to get the effects that were once achieved at lower doses. This can result in the potential for abuse and physical dependence for many types of drugs.No obvious withdrawal syndrome exists. Although tolerance does develop with mescaline use, there is no significant research to suggest that an individual using mescaline regularly will develop withdrawal symptoms or physical dependence. Physical dependence occurs when an individual has developed both tolerance and withdrawal symptoms to a drug. Withdrawal occurs when an individual stops using the drug and experiences a number of uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Some individuals who use mescaline regularly may experience mild feelings of depression, anxiety, and vulnerability to stress after they stop using the drug; however, physical dependence does not appear to be a factor with mescaline use.
While mescaline is considered to be a drug that has a low potential for abuse, this does not by any means indicate that it cannot be abused. The American Psychiatric Association lists a specific category for hallucinogen use disorder, which includes the abuse of or addiction to mescaline. Individuals who develop hallucinogen use disorders typically:
Individuals also often mix hallucinogens like mescaline with other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol, narcotic pain medications, or even stimulants. This can result in a very complicated situation for the person.
Individuals who have developed hallucinogen use disorders require the same treatment approach as individuals who have any type of substance use disorder.
This means that these individuals should ideally be enrolled in a professional substance use disorder treatment program, maintain abstinence, participate in support groups that foster recovery, and engage themselves in a long-term program of recovery.