Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug which may be extracted naturally from a number of South American cacti, or synthesised in a laboratory.
The cactus known to contain the highest level of the psychedelic chemical Mescaline is the Peyote cactus. Peyote is thought to have been consumed by indigenous native tribes in Central America and southern parts of North America for more than 3,000 years. Other cacti containing significant levels of Mescaline are the San Pedro cactus and the Peruvian Torch cactus (both native to the Andes region of South America).
These cacti have had an important spiritual significance for ancient cultures such as the Aztecs, and were often used to bring about ‘visions’ and communicate with the spirits of their ancestors during ritual ceremonies. They continue to be used for this purpose by some Native American tribes today, many of whom belong to the Native American Church, which is based around the ritual use of Peyote. In many cases, the local laws regarding Peyote and its active chemical, Mescaline, do not apply to those who practice Peyotism.
However, use of these cacti and Mescaline in particular has also spread to modern western societies, as a recreational hallucinogenic drug.
When Mescaline is derived and consumed from the Peyote cactus the heads of the plant are cut from the roots and dried to form ‘buttons’. These may then be chewed to release the Mescaline, or ground up and swallowed in capsule form. They may also be boiled and drunk as a tea.In addition to these natural forms, Mescaline may also be artificially synthesised in a laboratory, or it may be extracted directly from the cacti to produce pure Mescaline. The chemical was first identified in 1897, and was later synthesised for the first time by Arthur Heffter in 1919.
The effects of Mescaline are reportedly similar to those of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms, but some users claim that it creates a more ‘lucid’ state of mind than that created by an acid ‘trip’.
Mescaline was effectively made illegal in many countries in 1971, when it was placed into Schedule I of the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), along with LSD and Psilocybin – the active chemical in magic mushrooms.
Mescaline may be consumed in a variety of forms. It is the main active hallucinogenic chemical in a number of cacti, chiefly Peyote (Lophophora Williansi), but also the San Pedro (Trichocereus Pachanoi) and Peruvian Torch (Trichocereus Peruvianus) cactuses.
Because of their button-like appearance, particularly when dried for consumption, doses of Mescaline in their Peyote form are often referred to as Buttons, Cactus Buttons, Mesc Buttons or Tops.
Common generic street names for Mescaline include: Mesc, Mescal, Mescalito, Topi, Moon and Mese.
Sometimes Mescaline may be mixed with another drug on the street. For example, ‘Snackies’ refers to MDMA mixed with Mescaline.
The scientific name for pure Mescaline is 3, 4, 5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, and it is part of the phenethylamine group of chemicals, which also includes Amphetamine, Methamphetamine and MDMA.
The duration and exact nature of Mescaline’s effects can vary depending on the individual and the strength of the dose consumed. In general, the user will experience the first effects of the drug 30-45 minutes after consumption, and the effects can last anything between 8 - 12 hours.
Once the drug has ‘kicked in’, the user experiences a range of psychedelic effects, including distortions of time and cognitive functioning, auditory and visual hallucinations and mental confusion. ‘Ego death’ (a state of mind in which the boundaries between the self and the environment are said to blur or dissolve) may also occur, but this is less common than it is with stronger hallucinogens like LSD.
As with any psychedelic drug, individuals with emotional problems or underlying mental illnesses are at a particular risk of having negative, even catastrophic experiences with the drug. The so-called ‘bad trip’ which may occur can be highly disturbing and last many hours. In addition to unpleasant hallucinations, negative sensations can include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fear of death or insanity, and bad headaches.
Whilst under the influence of the drug, the user is prone to injuring themself or others accidentally due to the disruption to their sense of ordinary reality, physical coordination and cognitive functioning.
Mescaline is not thought to be physically addictive, but tolerance to the drug can increase, meaning that frequent users need to take higher doses to get the same effects. Some users can become addicted to using Mescaline and other psychedelics to trigger quasi-spiritual experiences that they feel get them ‘closer to reality’, while at the same time they may lose touch with the physical reality of their own lives.
There have been no known deaths due to Mescaline overdose, as this is many times greater than what recreational users take to experience a hallucinogenic experience.
Street Mescaline may come from a number of sources. Firstly, it may be consumed as part of a cactus that contains it – ie Peyote, San Pedro or Peruvian Torch. Secondly, it may be extracted directly from one of these plant sources via a chemical process. Finally, Mescaline may be synthesised in a laboratory.
The cacti that contain Mescaline grow predominantly in Central and South America, and in parts of North America. The Peyote cactus, which has the highest natural levels of Mescaline, grows in Mexico, and in southern parts of the US- namely, Texas.
The San Pedro cactus grows mainly in Peru, in the Andes mountain range, but it is also found in smaller numbers in other South American countries, including Bolivia and Ecuador. The Peruvian Torch cactus, a relative of the San Pedro, is also indigenous to the Andes Mountains in Peru.
As well as growing naturally, Peyote may be cultivated legally by licensed growers in the US, but only for the supply of the plant to members of the Native American Church, whose use of Peyote is permissible. Apart from this the legality of growing Peyote and other Mescaline-containing Cacti varies – in some states/ countries it is perfectly legal, in others regulated, while in others still growing or possessing the Cacti is entirely illegal.
In some cases, such as in the UK, it is legal and possible to grow the plant, but it is illegal to prepare it for consumption, eat it or supply it for the purposes of consumption.Legal grey areas like these have led to the independent home growth of Peyote and other cacti for the purposes of psychedelic drug use, though this is generally impractical due to the considerable length of time (several years at least) it takes to cultivate it to a state where it can produce a ‘trip’.
Pure Mescaline may be extracted from the Cacti which contain it. This is done using a series of chemical processes, which while complicated and time consuming, are not beyond the reach of a determined lay person. These processes can lead to the production of a number of slightly different types of Mescaline depending on the chemicals used in the reaction. For example, if hydrochloric acid is used in the process then Mescaline hydrochloride will be produced, while use of citric acid will produce Mescaline citrate.
Mescaline may also be synthesised from scratch in a laboratory, however because of the specialist knowledge and equipment needed, and relatively low potential for profit, it is thought to be quite rare that Mescaline is produced in this way. This is in part because organised criminals and drug gangs can make more money producing popular club drugs such as MDMA. Meanwhile, similar hallucinogenic drugs – such as LSD and Magic Mushrooms – are more readily accessible.
Despite these many different sources of Mescaline, it is relatively rare on the street. Again, this is due to the simple fact that is not profitable to produce and supply it, particularly when considering its legal status and the harsh penalties for possession or supply. In many cases Mescaline is produced by small time users of psychedelics for their own use, precisely because it is so hard to obtain.
Though Mescaline is not known to be chemically addictive, some users may take it frequently as a means of seeking a psychedelic experience. Though there are other hallucinogenic drugs which are far more readily available, some ‘enthusiasts’ of Mescaline claim that the drug has subtle differences which make it a superior drug.
Frequent users of Mescaline may take more and more of the drug, partly due to the effect of rising chemical tolerance to the drug, but also in pursuit of more intense ‘trips’.
An emotional or psychologically dependency can therefore result, in effect constituting an addiction to Mescaline. However it is far more likely that an individual will have a more generalised habit of drug use which involves not only Mescaline, but other hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and Psilocybin mushrooms, and stimulants such as MDMA.
When an individual is under the influence of Mescaline they may appear ‘out of it’ and not respond to stimuli in an ordinary way. They may also respond to visual or auditory hallucinations which are not physically there. Users who are experiencing a ‘bad trip’ may appear extremely anxious, paranoid and even panicked. Physical symptoms may include nausea and vomiting.
In terms of visible drug paraphernalia, dried ‘buttons’ of the Peyote cactus or similar plant matter may be discovered amongst their belongings. Ground up substances or capsules may also be found. Pure or synthetic Mescaline is usually a white crystal-like powder. Other evidence of additional psychedelic drug use includes dried mushrooms (magic mushrooms) and small ‘tabs’ of blotter paper or ‘microdot’ tablets (LSD).
Though Mescaline is not physically addictive in the way that drugs like Heroin or Cocaine are, the effects of long term use on the individual, and the psychological attachment to the drug, can be profound.
Because of the intensity of the drug and the extent to which it interferes with everyday normal functioning, Mescaline is generally not a drug that is taken every single day for long periods of time, as might be the case with a drug like Marijuana. However it may nonetheless be used frequently to achieve the desired state of mind and ‘tripping’ effects that the drug causes. Furthermore, the quantities involved during regular use may become gradually higher and higher due to a build up of tolerance to the drug.
Mescaline also has what is known as a ‘cross-tolerance’ with LSD. What this means is that because both LSD and Mescaline work on the same brain receptors, they affect the user’s tolerance level to the other drug as well. For example, if someone took LSD one day and then Mescaline the following day, they would need a higher dose than they would normally take to get the desired effects from the Mescaline.
There has been little research carried out into the long-term effects of heavy Mescaline use, but as with any psychedelic the effects on the individual’s state of mind and sense of reality can be significant.
In cases where a person has been taking Mescaline and other psychedelic drugs for a long time, their mind may have strayed far from the normal boundaries of what is required to function healthily in the real world.
In such instances a stay as an inpatient in a rehabilitation clinic could be beneficial, though external treatment as an outpatient is also possible.
As with many drug cessation treatments, the first step to breaking a Mescaline habit, or a more generalised psychedelic habit, is to simply stop taking the drug. There are not known to be any specific physical withdrawal symptoms from the drug, but the psychological cravings to revisit the state of mind produced by Mescaline may intensify over time.
A broad spectrum of therapies may be used to treat the individual, including one to one counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and other treatments aimed at helping the patient identify and change their behaviours. They may be encouraged to explore the deeper reasons for their drug use, what triggers it, and what alternative steps they can take in future.
Because of the hallucinogenic and introspective nature of the drug, some users may be mentally scarred by their experiences and require more specialised psychological treatment to help them come to terms with their experiences and perceptions.
Support groups with other recovering hallucinogen users may also be helpful in assisting the individual to not only adjust to a drug-free life, but to prevent relapses in future.
Because of the action that Mescaline has on the brain, former users may suffer from psychological and mood imbalances even long after cessation, and may need continuing support following treatment.