Addiction A-Z


Mescaline is a psychedelic drug obtained from several different cactus species found in the southwestern U.S., as well as in Mexico and Peru. While technically an amphetamine, its most notable effect on the human body is the production of hallucinatory states that significantly alter your normal sensory perception, emotional state and thought processes. Mescaline is not known to produce physical or psychological addiction. However, use or abuse of the drug can lead to the onset of frightening short-term mental experiences and long-term states of psychosis similar to those found in people with paranoid schizophrenia.

According to the University of Maryland, mescaline is a member of a group of psychedelic substances called phenethylamines, which have stimulating effects in addition to their mind-altering properties. It has a chemical structure that closely resembles the structure of chemicals in your brain, called norepinephrine and dopamine, which transmit signals between individual nerve cells (neurons). This resemblance gives mescaline its ability to interfere with and distort your normal perceptions and mental processes.

In the U.S., most people obtain the drug in the form of dried pieces of cactus called peyote buttons. The mescaline content of these buttons is accessed through chewing, or by soaking the buttons in water and drinking this water at a later time. In addition, some people grind dried peyote buttons into powder and smoke this powder in combination with tobacco or marijuana. In addition to the various forms of peyote, mescaline is sometimes chemically isolated from its cactus source or synthetically created in a laboratory setting. Isolated and synthesized forms of the drug come in capsules, tablets, powders and liquids. Street terms for peyote include Nubs, Half Moon, Tops and P. Street terms for isolated or synthesized mescaline include Mesc, Mescal, Moon and Topi.

Mescaline use and abuse

In the U.S., mescaline and peyote are classified as Schedule 1 hallucinogens, and are therefore illegal to use or possess. In addition, Schedule 1 drugs have no accepted use within the medical community. Historically, peyote has an extensive record of use of in Native American tribes found in peyote-rich areas. The only people in the U.S. who can legally use peyote are members of the Native American Church participating in Church-sanctioned religious ceremonies.

Some people develop extremely unpleasant mental reactions to mescaline use and have the proverbial “bad trip.” In these circumstances, potential experiences include intensified forms of psychologically damaging mental states such as panic, paranoia, terror, confusion, depression, anxiety and bewilderment. People with adverse reactions can also experience graphic or emotionally overwhelming hallucinations.

No one can predict in advance who will have these sorts of experiences, and the effects of the drug can differ considerably according to factors that include mental state and background, personal history of drug use, the amount of the drug ingested, the social and physical circumstances surrounding the use of the drug and preconceptions or expectations regarding the drug’s likely effects. Some people who take the drug develop ongoing mental/emotional states that closely resemble a psychotic break. Individuals with a prior history of psychotic episodes almost certainly have an increased chance of developing this type of reaction. If a person shows any signs of this mental disturbance or psychosis, they need to seek help from a trained psychiatric or psychological specialist as soon as possible.

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