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Mescaline

Also known as

peyote buttons, peyote, buttons, cactus, mesc, peyoto

Classification

Psychedelic, hallucinogen

Overview

Mescaline is a psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug whose use leads to altered perceptions. It comes from button-shaped 'seeds' found in the Peyote cactus and also from some other members of the Cactaceae plant family and from Fabaceae bean family. Mescaline has been used for thousands of years and is best known as a drug used by some Native Americans in Mexico as part of their religious ceremonies.

Most users chew the button shaped 'seeds' to produce the hallucinogenic effects, which can last for between 12 - 18 hours [1].

The key effects and risks of mescaline include -

  • an altered state of consciousness - with altered thinking and changes in time perception - often described as enjoyable and illuminating,
  • prominent changes in visual perceptions with intense visual distortions and possibly hallucinations
  • development of vomiting, headaches and feelings of anxiety [1].

What does it look like?

Mescaline comes from green button-shaped 'seeds' which are found in the Peyote cactus. These 'Peyote buttons' are dried or mixed with water to make a hallucinogenic drink.

Mescaline has a bitter taste so some people grind 'Peyote buttons' into an off-white powder that is put into capsules [1].

The top of the peyote cactus is referred to as the 'crown' and consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut off [2].

Source

Mescaline can be extracted from peyote or produced synthetically [3].

Why take it?

Sought after effects

  • feelings of interconnectedness,
  • spiritual events,
  • euphoria,
  • increased sensitivity to touch,
  • increased sense of smell,
  • music enhancement,
  • increased persistence of vision [4].

Undesired effects

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • unwanted spiritual experiences,
  • tension,
  • anxiety,
  • intense feelings of dread and doom [4].

How long do its effects last?

Onset of effects

  • oral - 45 - 120 minutes [5].
  • all ROA's - 60 - 180+ minutes [6].

Peak

  • oral - 4 - 6 hours [5].

Duration of effects

  • all ROA's - 6 - 12 hours [6].

After-effects

  • oral - 4 - 12 hours [5].
  • all ROA's - 3 - 5 hours [6].

Pharmacology

Mescaline belongs to a family of compounds known as phenethylamines, making it quite distinct from the other major psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, which belong to the indole family. Many synthetic 'designer' psychedelics, such as ecstasy (MDMA) and 2C-B, are phenethylamines, and are related to the chemistry of mescaline. The chemical structure of mescaline is very similar to that of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, thus the drug can interfere with their actions in the brain [7], [8].

Mescaline acts similarly to other psychedelic agents [9]. It binds to and activates the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor with a high affinity [10]. How activating the 5-HT2A receptor leads to psychedelia is still unknown, but it likely somehow involves excitation of neurons in the prefrontal cortex [11]. Mescaline is also known to bind to and activate the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor [12], [5].

Mescaline shares structural similarities with Serotonin and Dopamine. Mescaline acts similarly to other psychedelics by binding to and activating the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor with low affinity and high efficacy. Mescaline is also known to bind to and activate the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor. Tolerance builds with repeated usage, lasting for a few days. Mescaline causes cross-tolerance with other serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD, psilocin and 2C-x compounds.

Some studies have concluded that mescaline goes through the body nearly unchanged. Six hours after dosing half of dose has been excreted and of between 20% and 50% of it is unchanged. The rest is the carboxylic acid, most likely degraded by MAO [4].

Lethal dosage

The LD50 is unknown in humans. In experiments with rats, the LD50 for mescaline has been established in the range of 800 - 1,200mg/kg orally. Considering the human dose range is about 100 - 1000mg, it would be very difficult to consume enough mescaline to kill a human. As such, there are no recorded human deaths from the ingestion of mescaline. With that said, caution is still advised when consuming high doses [4].

Toxicity

The toxicity and long-term health effects of recreational mescaline use do not seem to have been studied in any scientific context and the exact toxic dose is unknown. This is because the lethal dosage for humans has not been formally studied and there are no known fatal over doses within the literature. Anecdotal evidence from people within the psychonaut community who have tried mescaline suggests that there are no negative health effects attributed to simply trying the drug by itself at low to moderate doses and using it very sparingly (but nothing can be completely guaranteed) [5].

Tolerance

  • full tolerance is reached almost immediately after ingestion,
  • decreases to half after 3 days,
  • returns to baseline after 7 days,
  • cross-tolerance with all psychedelics [5].

Mode of use

'Peyote buttons' are most often chewed but they can also be mixed with water and swallowed. Sometimes mescaline is made into a powder and put into capsules and swallowed [1].

The fresh or dried buttons are chewed or soaked in water to produce an intoxicating liquid. Peyote buttons may also be ground into a powder that can be placed inside gelatin capsules to be swallowed, or smoked with a leaf material such as cannabis or tobacco [2].

Effects

The prevalence of negative effects increases with higher doses.

Mescaline is considered a hallucinogen or psychedelic drug and its effects include -

  • an altered state of consciousness - with altered thinking and changes in time perception - which is often described as happy, positive, enjoyable and 'illuminating',
  • feeling like you are in a dream-like state,
  • prominent changes in visual perceptions with intense visual distortions and possibly hallucinations (where you see things that aren't there). These can happen with your eyes open or closed. Less common are auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren't there),
  • some people can experience moderate to severe vomiting and/or headaches [1].

Mescaline produces perceptual, cognitive, and emotional experiences that vary widely among users based on dose size, setting, expectations, personality, and drug history. The only documented long-term effect of mescaline is a possible prolonged psychotic state similar to that of paranoid schizophrenia. It is suggested that this may only affect those who were previously diagnosed as mentally ill [8].

Short-term effects

  • nausea,
  • altered states of perception/feeling,
  • increased body temperature,
  • increased heart rate,
  • increased blood pressure,
  • loss of appetite,
  • sleeplessness,
  • numbness,
  • weakness,
  • tremors,
  • terrifying thoughts,
  • anxiety,
  • fear of insanity,
  • fear of depth,
  • fear of losing control [13].

Long-term effects

  • flashbacks,
  • hallucinogen persisting perception disorder [13].
  • paranoia,
  • mood disturbances,
  • visual disturbances,
  • disorganised thinking [14].

Cognitive effects

  • illusions,
  • hallucinations,
  • altered perception of space and time,
  • altered body image [2],
  • vivid mental images,
  • distorted vision,
  • synaesthesia,
  • joy,
  • exhilaration,
  • panic,
  • extreme anxiety,
  • terror,
  • distorted sense of body (users can feel either weighed down or weightless),
  • heightened sensory experiences (i.e. brighter colors, sharper visual definition, increased hearing acuity, more distinguished taste),
  • difficult focusing,
    • maintaining attention,
    • concentrating,
    • thinking,
  • loss of sense of reality - melding past experiences with present,
  • preoccupation with trivial thoughts, experiences, or objects,
  • highly adverse reactions ("bad trip"), including -
    • frightening hallucinations,
    • confusion,
    • disorientation,
    • paranoia,
    • agitation,
    • depression,
    • panic, and/or
    • terror [8],
  • conceptual thinking,
  • delusions,
  • thought loops,
  • time distortion,
  • analysis enhancement,
  • creativity enhancement,
  • emotion enhancement,
  • immersion enhancement,
  • increased music appreciation,
  • novelty enhancement,
  • personal meaning enhancement,
  • suggestibility enhancement,
  • thought acceleration,
  • wakefulness,
  • memory suppression,
  • personal bias suppression,
  • existential self-realisation,
  • feelings of interdependent opposites,
  • spirituality enhancement,
  • unity and interconnectedness [5].

Multi-sensory

Physical effects

  • intense nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • dilation of the pupils,
  • increased heart rate,
  • increased blood pressure,
  • rise in body temperature,
  • heavy perspiration,
  • headaches,
  • muscle weakness,
  • impaired motor coordination [2],
  • numbness,
  • tension,
  • anxiety,
  • rapid reflexes,
  • muscle twitches,
  • impaired motor coordination,
  • dizziness,
  • trembling,
  • appetite suppression,
  • sweating,
  • chills,
  • shivering [8],
  • physical euphoria,
  • spontaneous tactile sensations,
  • bodily control enhancement,
  • stimulation,
  • tactile enhancement [5],
  • dry mouth,
  • flushed skin,
  • increased energy levels,
  • loss of appetite,
  • sleep difficulties [15].

Visual effects

  • colour enhancement,
  • pattern recognition enhancement,
  • visual acuity enhancement,
  • after images,
  • colour shifting,
  • drifting - (melting, flowing, breathing and morphing) - In comparison to other psychedelics, this effect can be described as highly detailed, slow and smooth in motion, static in appearance and realistic in style,
  • scenery slicing,
  • symmetrical texture repetition,
  • tracers [5],
  • autonomous entities,
  • internal hallucinations,
  • perspective alterations,
  • transformations [5].

Auditory effects

  • auditory distortion,
  • auditory enhancement,
  • auditory hallucinations [5].

Positive

  • feelings of interconnectedness,
  • spiritual events,
  • euphoria,
  • increased sensitivity to touch,
  • increased sense of smell,
  • music enhancement,
  • increased persistence of vision [4].

Neutral

  • altered thinking processes,
  • an altered sense of time and self-awareness,
  • closed and open-eye visual phenomena,
  • synaesthesia (especially in conjunction with music),
  • peripheral stimulation,
  • increased cardiovascular activity,
  • increased perspiration [4].

Negative

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • unwanted spiritual experiences,
  • tension,
  • anxiety,
  • intense feelings of dread and doom [4].

Tolerance

Tolerance to peyote or mescaline typically develops rapidly with repeated daily use, generally within 3 - 6 days. Cross-tolerance may also occur with other drugs including LSD and psilocybin. With a period of abstinence of at least a few days, 'desired sensitivity is restored' [8].

Risks

Like any drug, taking mescaline does involve risks. Here's what it could do to you -

  • some people experience moderate to severe vomiting and/or headaches,
  • it can make you dizzy, anxious, increase your heart beat and give you diarrhoea,
  • people have been known to harm themselves while under the effects of hallucinogens. Hence, it is particularly advisable for people already in a bad mood, feeling depressed or worried to avoid taking mescaline in such a state,
  • if you panic, or don't feel safe and comfortable with the people you're with, the experience of a mescaline trip can be confusing or sometimes very scary. Whilst good trips can be pleasant and amusing at the time, bad trips can be terrifying,
  • Because the perception of your body and the world around you can be distorted, and you may also be quite distracted, you may well not be in complete control of what you're doing and so at risk of hurting yourself or others, particularly in any unsafe environments [1].

Addiction

Can you get addicted

Mescaline is not physically addictive, but like other hallucinogenic drugs you can become tolerant to their effects. This means you need to take more of it to get the same effect as before [1].

Dangerous interactions

Dangerous

Unsafe

  • Tramadol - this combination can cause seizures due to the lowering of the threshold by tramadol and the potential of mescaline to cause seizures [6].

Drug testing

Several factors are involved in determining how long mescaline is detectable in the body, including which kind drug test is being used. Mescaline - also known as buttons, cactus, mesc, peyote buttons - can be detected for a shorter time with some tests, but can be 'visible' for up to three months in other tests.

The timetable for detecting mescaline in the system is also dependent upon each individual's metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, health conditions and other factors, making it almost impossible to determine an exact time mescaline will show up on a drug test [14].

The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which mescaline can be detected by various testing methods -

How long does mescaline stay in the urine?

Mescaline can be detected in the urine for 2 - 3 days [14].

How long can mescaline be detected in blood?

There is some data available that indicates Mescaline can be detected in the blood for up to 24 hours [14].

How long can a saliva test detect mescaline?

A saliva test can detect Mescaline for up to 1 - 10 days [14].

How long can a hair test detect mescaline?

Mescaline, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days [14].

Legality

Mescaline powder is a Class A drug, which means that it's illegal to have, give away or sell.

Possession can get you up to seven years in jail.

Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you life and an unlimited fine.

However dried 'Peyote buttons' are not illegal [1].

Did you know?

Like drinking and driving, driving whilst impaired due to use of drugs is illegal - and you could still be unfit to drive the day after using mescaline. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison [1].

Mixing with other drugs

Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal - and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using mescaline. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.

We don't have any information about the purity of mescaline. It is possible that because mescaline looks like a naturally green button-shaped 'seeds', rather than a white power, it is probably more likely for mescaline to be faked rather than cut with anything [1].

History

Peyote is one of the oldest psychedelic agents known. Aztecs of Pre-Columbian Mexico who considered the cactus magical and divine often used it [16]. Peyote use then spread from Mexico to North America to other Native American groups who used it to treat illnesses, communicate with spirits, and for highly religious ceremonies [17]. In 1918, The Native American Church was formed to preserve their right to use peyote.

Mescaline has been used for centuries because of the mystical experiences that it is purported to induce [17]. Until the landmark free exercise decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Employment Division v. Smith 494 U.S. 872 (1990), members of the Native American Church had the legal right to use mescaline-containing peyote in religious ceremonies [18]. Ernst Spath first synthesised mescaline in 1919 [8].

Mescaline is thought to be one of the oldest psychedelics used by humans, evidence suggesting Native Americans in Mexico consumed it ceremonially over 5700 years ago. However, it wasn't until 1919 that it was first synthesised by Ernst Spath. Eight years later, an extensive study of mescaline's effects was published in 'Der Meskalunraush', meaning 'The Mesacline High.' Then, in 1952 Dr. Humphry Osmond began working with psychedelics at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Osmond was studying the similarities between Mescaline and the adrenaline molecule.

The following year, in 1953, Aldous Huxley consumed 400mg of mescaline under Dr. Osmond's direct supervision, recounting and publishing his first experience in the book The Doors of Perception in 1954. The Doors of Perception went on to catch the attention of many prominent psychedelic researchers and became one of the most referenced pieces of literature in the psychedelic community. The psychedelic rock band The Doors took its name from the title of the book. Among the many researchers who took notice of Huxley's work was Alexander Shulgin, who went on to test mescaline on himself in 1960 at a 350mg dose. This experience sparked an interest in phenethylamines that persisted for the rest of his career as a chemist. Detailed in Shulgin's Lab Notebook #4 on page 471.

In 1961, Shulgin proposed the 'mescaline unit' (ED mescaline divided by ED analog) as a measure of relative potency of mescaline analogs. In this calculation the effective dose represents the average of ED1 and ED100 (ED50 or 'median effective dose'). The 'mescaline-unit' (M.U.) was used in studies of many psychoactive compounds by many prominent chemical researchers, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense. However, it is no longer used.

On October 27 of 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was passed in the USA. Part II of this is the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which defines a scheduling system for drugs. Under this act, mescaline, along with LSD, psilocybin, psylocin, peyote, cannabis and MDA were all listed under Schedule I. In 1991, Alexander and Ann Shulgin first published their book called Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved, a collection of years' worth of work documenting in detail the synthesis and subjective effects of over 250 phenethylamines, including mescaline [4].


References

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