Last updated: 12 November 2023 & medically reviewed by Dr. Celeste Small
Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic hallucinogen that is found in certain species of cacti located in South America and parts of North America. Mescaline has been used as part of religious ceremonies for thousands of years, as well as recreationally in more recent times. Though not considered addictive, mescaline may still pose other health risks if abused.
Much like its South American cousin Ayahuasca, Peyote has been used for thousands of years as part of rituals and religious ceremonies, dating back as far as the Aztecs.
Mescaline is taken in a variety of ways spending on what form of the drug is being used. Traditional peyote is taken by chewing, smoking, or eating specific parts of the plant.
The hallucinogenic effects of mescaline will last longer for some people than others. Depending on a person’s height, weight, mental state, previous drug use, mescaline can last between 10 and 20 hours.
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What Is Mescaline?
Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a psychedelic protoalkaloid hallucinogen that is found organically in the Peyote Cactus (Lophophora Williamsii) which is native to Mexico and Texas, as well as some other species of cactus found in Peru and South America. The peyote cactus is uncommon, which makes mescaline a rarer hallucinogen than LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). In more recent years, it has been possible to chemically synthesize mescaline in laboratories.
Much like its South American cousin Ayahuasca, Peyote has been used for thousands of years as part of rituals and religious ceremonies, dating back as far as the Aztecs. Mescaline use in religious ceremonies has been traced to Native Americans, notably the Huichols of Mexico as well as in Peru and Ecuador. In more recent history, from 1880 onwards, religious ceremonies involving peyote were adopted by the Kiowa and Comanche people, and some still practice using peyote today.
Mescaline legal status
Mescaline was made a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) in 1970, making it an illegal substance with no medical benefits. This has led to some controversy as peyote is used for religious purposes by various Native American groups. When peyote is used in religious ceremonies, it is exempt from its classification as a Schedule I controlled drug under the 1994 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).
How is Mescaline taken?
Mescaline is taken in a variety of ways spending on what form of the drug is being used. Traditional peyote is taken by chewing, smoking, or eating specific parts of the plant. These parts of the plant, commonly referred to as buttons, are extracted from the roots. The root is also sometimes brewed into a tea, similar to ayahuasca.
If someone is taking synthetic mescaline produced in a lab then it will most commonly come in the form of a pill that is swallowed. There are also reports of people injecting liquid mescaline directly into their bloodstream, though these cases are rare.
How long does mescaline last?
The hallucinogenic effects of mescaline will last longer for some people than others. Depending on a person’s height, weight, mental state, previous drug use, mescaline can last between 10 and 20 hours. On average, most people will begin to feel the effects after two hours and will have hallucinations and other reactions for around 12 hours.
Read here to find out how long other drugs stay in your system.
What does mescaline feel like?
Mescaline is reported to have similar effects to other hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin, namely psychedelic experiences, altered perspectives, positive feelings, and heightened emotional states.
It can also cause hallucinations which may be distressing depending on the user's mental state before taking the substance. Mescaline can also cause synesthesia, a mixing of the senses where users can feel like they see sound or hear color.
Mescaline use can induce headaches, vomiting, and anxiety in some users.
What are the risks of taking mescaline?
As with all hallucinogenic and psychedelic substances, there are negative effects that counter the positive feeling the drug gives. These include:
Physical health risks
Increased heart rate
Mental health risks
The risk of having negative mental health reactions to hallucinogens is dependent mainly on the existing mental state of the user. As hallucinogens like mescaline can distort reality and heighten emotional states, being in a bad mood or negative mental state can lead to people having bad trips.
Bad trips can include terrifying visions and painful emotional reactions. These can lead to people harming themselves or others if they are in a bad place. Mescaline also distorts the user's perception of the world around them, which can lead to accidents and injury.
While mescaline use is not condoned under any circumstance, if someone does use the drug it is advised they do so with a trusted person, in a comfortable and familiar location, and with a positive mental state.
Mescaline and addiction
Like most hallucinogenic substances, mescaline does not have a long-term physical effect on the brain and does not cause dependence or addiction. However, tolerance to the substance can develop quickly, meaning more and more is needed to feel its effects. This can lead to people taking high doses, though there are very few reports of mescaline poisoning or overdose.
Mescaline and peyote FAQs
Below are some of the questions we are most often asked about mescaline and peyote:
How long does mescaline last?
The length of time mescaline takes to kick in and how long the psychedelic high from the drug lasts can vary from person to person, as can the detection rate of the substance. Read here to learn more about how long mescaline and peyote last.
What does a mescaline high feel like?
Mescaline is a potent hallucinogen found in the peyote cactus that causes visions and other sensory apparitions that aren't real. This is due to the chemical reaction the drug has with neural pathways in the brain. Read here to find out more about mescaline highs or "trips" and the effects of peyote on the brain.