Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug that can be extracted naturally from several South American cacti or synthesized in a laboratory.
The cactus reputed to contain the largest amount of this psychedelic chemical is peyote. It is estimated that peyote has been consumed by indigenous tribes in Central America and the southern part of North America for more than 3000 years. Other cacti that contain significant amounts of mescaline include San Pedro and Peruvian Torch (both native to the Andes region of South America).
These cacti had important spiritual significance to ancient cultures such as the Aztecs, who often used them to gain “visions” and communicate with the spirits of their ancestors during ritual ceremonies. Today, they continue to be used for this purpose by some Native American tribes, most of whom belong to the Native American Church, based on the ritual consumption of peyote. In many cases, local laws regarding peyote and its active substance, mescaline, do not apply to those who practice peyotism.
However, the use of these cacti, and mescaline in particular, has also become widespread in modern Western societies as a recreational hallucinogenic drug.
When mescaline is consumed from the peyote cactus, the tops of the plant are separated from the roots and dried into “buds. These can then be chewed to release the mescaline or crushed and ingested in capsule form. They can also be boiled and drunk as tea.
In addition to these natural forms, mescaline can be artificially synthesized in a laboratory or extracted directly from cacti to obtain pure mescaline. This chemical was first identified in 1897 and then synthesized for the first time by Arthur Heffter in 1919.
The effects of mescaline are supposedly similar to hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms, but some users claim that it creates a more “lucid” state of mind than an acid trip.
Mescaline became illegal in many countries in 1971, when it was listed in Schedule I of the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) along with LSD and psilocybin, the active substance in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Mescaline can be consumed in different forms. It is the main active hallucinogenic substance of a number of cacti, mainly peyote (Lophophora Williansi), but also San Pedro Trichocereus Pachanoi) and Peruvian torch (Trichocereus Peruvianus).
Because they resemble buds, especially when dried for consumption, mescaline doses from peyote are often referred to as buds, cactus buds or tops.
Generic street names for mescaline include mesc, mescal, mescalito, topi, moon and mese.
Mescaline is sometimes mixed with another street drug. For example, “snackies” are a mixture of MDMA and mescaline.
The scientific name for pure mescaline is 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine. It is part of a group of chemicals called phenylethylamines, which also includes amphetamine, methamphetamine and MDMA.
The duration and exact nature of mescaline’s effects vary depending on the individual and the dose consumed. In general, the first effects of the drug are felt 30 to 45 minutes after its absorption and the effects can last between 8 and 12 hours.
Under the influence of the drug, the user experiences psychedelic effects, including distortion of time and cognitive functions, visual and auditory hallucinations and mental confusion. Ego death” (a state of mind in which the boundaries between self and environment become blurred or disappear) can also occur, but less frequently than with stronger hallucinogens such as LSD.
Like any psychedelic drug, individuals with underlying emotional problems or mental illnesses are more likely to have a harmful or even catastrophic experience. The so-called “bad trip” that can occur can be very disturbing and last for several hours. In addition to unpleasant hallucinations, the drug can cause negative feelings such as nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fear of death or dementia and severe headaches.
While under the influence of the drug, the user is at risk of accidentally injuring themselves or others due to impaired sense of reality, physical coordination and cognitive function.
Mescaline is not considered physically addictive, but a tolerance to the drug can develop that will require regular users to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. Some people may become “addicted” to mescaline and other psychedelic drugs in order to have quasi-spiritual experiences that they believe “bring them closer to reality” but at the same time may cause them to lose touch with the physical reality of their lives.
No mescaline overdose deaths have been reported, as it would take a much larger dose than what users take for hallucinogenic purposes.
Mescaline sold on the street can come from a number of sources. First, it can be consumed from a cactus containing it, namely peyote, San Pedro and Peruvian torch. Secondly, it can be extracted directly from one of these plants by a chemical process. Finally, mescaline can be synthesized in a laboratory.
Cacti containing mescaline grow mainly in South and Central America and in some parts of North America. Peyote, which naturally contains the most mescaline, grows in Mexico and the southern United States (Texas).
The San Pedro cactus grows mainly in Peru, in the Andes Mountains, but it is also found in smaller numbers in other South American countries, including Bolivia and Ecuador. The Peruvian torch, which is in the same family as the San Pedro, is also native to the Peruvian Andes.
In addition to growing wild, peyote can be grown legally by licensed growers in the United States, but only to supply the Native American Church, which is licensed to use peyote. Apart from this, the legality of growing peyote and other mescaline-containing cacti varies from state to state or country to country: in some it is perfectly legal while in others it is regulated. In others, the cultivation or possession of cacti is completely illegal.
In some cases, such as in the United Kingdom, it is legal and possible to grow the plant but it is illegal to prepare it for consumption, to absorb it or to distribute it for consumption.
These legal loopholes have allowed for the development of independent domestic cultivation of peyote and other cacti for psychedelic use, although this cultivation is generally impractical since it takes a very long time (several years at least) before the plant can generate a “trip.
Pure mescaline can be extracted from cacti in containers. This requires a series of chemical processes which, despite their complexity and the time required, are within the reach of a determined layman. These processes can produce different types of mescaline, depending on the chemicals used in the reaction. For example, if hydrochloric acid is used, mescaline hydrochloride will be produced, while citric acid will produce mescaline citrate.
Mescaline can also be synthesized from scratch in the laboratory. However, due to the knowledge and equipment required and the relatively low profit potential, it is believed that mescaline is rarely produced in this way. Indeed, criminal organizations and drug traffickers can make more money by manufacturing popular club drugs, such as MDMA. On the other hand, similar hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms are more readily available.
Despite these different sources, mescaline is relatively rare on the street. Again, this is simply due to the fact that it is not cost-effective to produce and distribute, especially given its legal status and the heavy penalties for possession or sale. Mescaline is often produced by casual psychedelic drug users for their own consumption, precisely because it is difficult to obtain
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug.
- It is the active ingredient in the peyote cactus used ritually by Native Americans as well as other species, including San Pedro and Peruvian torch.
- It can be chewed from a dried part of the plant, chemically extracted or synthesized in a clandestine laboratory.
- Whether it is synthetic mescaline or a preparation from cactus containing the substance, the drug is usually taken orally, but can also (rarely) be injected.
- Users will experience a “trip” similar to that obtained with LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms, including hallucinations, perceptual distortions and a feeling of detachment from oneself.
- Those who have a “bad trip” may experience a waking nightmare for the duration of the effects.
- Mescaline is relatively rare as a street drug because it is not cost-effective to produce illegally in large quantities.
It is prohibited by international law, according to the United Nations Convention on
- Psychotropic Substances (1971).
In the United States, mescaline is a Schedule I drug, just like peyote. However, exceptions are made for its “non-addictive” ritual use by members of the Native American Church
- In the United Kingdom, it is a class A drug. Possession is punishable by up to seven years in prison and sale can be punishable by life imprisonment.
- Mescaline is also illegal in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia and many other countries.
- A regular user may develop a tolerance to the drug but not a chemical dependency.
- Mescaline was discovered by Western scientists in 1897 and was first synthesized in 1919.
- The peyote cactus, the main natural source of mescaline, has been used by Native American cultures in religious ceremonies for over 3,000 years.
- An “active dose” of mescaline (strong enough to produce hallucinations) is estimated to be between 200 and 400mg of the drug. In regular users, this figure can be much higher if they have developed a tolerance.
- It is estimated that the peyote cactus contains 300mg of mescaline for 27g of dried flesh.
- An average “bud” may contain about 20-30g of mescaline.
- After consumption, the effects of mescaline can appear within 30 to 45 minutes.
- The effects can last up to 12 hours or more.
- There are few statistics on mescaline use, but it is generally believed to be minimal, due to the difficulty of obtaining the drug.
- Between 1980 and 1987, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized only 9kg of peyote containing mescaline.
- In February 2010, police arrested two suspected suppliers of the drug in Northumberland County, UK. 20,000 (€23,200) of mescaline was also reportedly seized.
- In April 2010, 3.5kg of mescaline was seized from an apartment in Glasgow, Scotland. Police estimate the total value of the drug at £35,000 (€40,552).
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
Although mescaline is not chemically addictive, some users may take it regularly in order to have a psychedelic experience. There are other hallucinogenic drugs that are much more readily available, but some mescaline users say that this drug is slightly different, making it superior.
Regular users may be taking more and more mescaline, partly because of a greater chemical tolerance, but also because they are looking for more intense “trips.
This can lead to emotional or psychological dependence. However, it is much more likely that the individual is a polydrug addict, using mescaline, other hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and psilocybe mushrooms, and stimulants such as MDMA.
When a person is under the influence of mescaline, he or she may appear “clueless” and not respond normally to stimuli. They may also react to visual or auditory hallucinations that do not exist. Users who experience a “bad trip” may appear extremely anxious, paranoid, or even panicked. Physical symptoms may include nausea and vomiting.
In terms of the user’s visible paraphernalia, dried “buds” of peyote or a similar cactus may be found in the user’s belongings, as well as crushed substances or capsules. Pure or synthetic mescaline is usually a white crystalline powder. Signs of other psychedelic drug use include dried mushrooms (hallucinogens) and small blotters or “microdots” (LSD).
Although mescaline is not physically addictive like drugs such as heroin or cocaine, its long-term effects and psychological attachment can be profound.
Because of the intensity of the drug and the way it disrupts normal functioning, mescaline is not usually taken daily and over a long period of time, as may be the case with marijuana. Nevertheless, it can be taken regularly to get the mood and “high” effects it provides. On the other hand, the quantities absorbed during regular use can gradually increase as a result of increased tolerance to the drug.
Mescaline also generates a “cross-tolerance” with LSD. Because both substances act on the same brain receptors, they also affect the level of tolerance to the other drug. For example, if a person takes LSD one day and mescaline the next, he or she will need a higher dose than usual to get the desired effects of mescaline.
Little research has been done on the long-term effects of taking mescaline in large doses, but like any psychedelic drug, it can significantly affect the user’s state of mind and sense of reality.
If a person has been using mescaline and other psychedelic drugs for a long time, his or her mind may not function as well as the real world requires.
In this case, a stay in a detox center could be beneficial, although outpatient treatment is also possible.
As with any withdrawal program, the first step is to stop using the drug. This withdrawal is not known to create any particular physical withdrawal symptoms, but the psychological need to return to the mescaline-generated state of mind may gradually intensify.
Several therapies may be used, including face-to-face counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and other treatments aimed at helping the patient identify and modify his or her behaviours. He or she may be encouraged to research the root causes of the addiction, its triggers and alternative methods for future use.
Because of the hallucinogenic and introspective nature of the drug, some users may be left with mental scars from their experiences and require more specialized psychological treatment to help them work through their experiences and perceptions.
In addition, support groups of other recovering hallucinogenic drug users can help the individual get used to living without drugs and avoid relapse.
Because of mescaline’s action on the brain, former users may suffer from psychological imbalance and mood swings long after withdrawal and require ongoing support after treatment.