Hallucinogenic compounds have been used for thousands of years around the world for religious and therapeutic purposes. Mescaline is indigenous to Native Americans but is now re-emerging as a powerful hallucinogen with religious, therapeutic, and recreational implications.

What is Mescaline?

Mescaline is a powerful hallucinogen that occurs naturally in cacti plants that are native to South America and southwest states in the U.S. These cacti include the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), the Peruvian Torch cactus (Trichocereus peruvianus), and the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi). Mescaline is the active ingredient in these cacti. Its chemical name is 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine.

Traditionally, mescaline was used as a spiritual sacrament and in treating various ailments such as fevers, toothaches, and asthma. While it is still being used for spiritual reasons, the therapeutic benefits of mescaline are under investigation. Preliminary evidence is showing that mescaline may have potential in psychotherapy.

The chemical structure of mescaline
The chemical structure of mescaline

Street Names of Mescaline

Nicknames for mescaline include Big Chief, Buttons, Mescalito, Cactus, San Pedro, and Peyote.

How is Mescaline Produced?

Natural mescaline is derived from the button-shaped seeds found on the outside of cactus plants; the peyote cactus, Peruvian torch and the San Pedro cactus. These seeds are usually cut and dried before they are consumed. Synthetic mescaline is produced through a chemical process; mescaline sulfate.

What is Peyote?

Peyote is a type of spineless cactus (Lophophora williamsii) that contains high amounts of the hallucinogenic compound mescaline (3%-6%). The peyote cactus is legally used for religious ceremonies by the Native American Church. It has been used for thousands of years for shamanic rituals.

What is San Pedro?

San Pedro is a type of psychoactive cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) that contains the hallucinogenic compound mescaline. It is indigenous to the high Andes mountain range. It contains a lower amount of mescaline as compared to the peyote cactus. While peyote is slow-growing, San Pedro is a fast-growing cactus.

Is Mescaline Legal?

Mescaline Legal Status in the USA

Mescaline is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., meaning it is illegal to use or distribute it. The consumption of mescaline was prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act, which was passed in 1970. However, the Native American Church is exempted from this law and uses peyote for religious purposes.

Mescaline Legal Status in Canada

In Canada, peyote can be used legally for religious purposes, but recreational use is illegal. Mescaline is listed as a schedule III drug in the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and is therefore unlawful. However, the peyote cactus is exempted from this listing. Even though peyote contains mescaline, it can be legally grown, consumed, and distributed in Canada. However, it is not legal to isolate mescaline from peyote; this would amount to a violation of the CDSA. Other hallucinogenic plants are not exempted from the CDSA; peyote is an exemption due to its historical significance to the indigenous communities in Canada.

Mescaline Legal Status in Mexico

In Mexico, peyote can be used for religious purposes only.

Mescaline Legal Status in the United Kingdom

In the UK, mescaline is classified as a class A drug. While it is legal to cultivate peyote, it is illegal to consume it or to prepare it for consumption.

How is Mescaline Consumed?

The cactus buttons are cut into small fragments and dried. They are then chewed, or they can be soaked in water to make an intoxicating tea. Note that it is very bitter. It can also be made into a powder and packed into oral capsules. Alternatively, peyote can be rolled up in a joint and smoked.

Mescaline Dosages

We do not yet have enough scientific data to determine an appropriate range of doses for mescaline. Dosing peyote or san pedro is difficult as this will vary based on individual factors such as age, body weight, metabolism, and frequency of consumption.

Generally, when used for its hallucinogenic properties, users aim for 400 to 700 mg of mescaline. This is the equivalent of about 10 to 20 g of dried peyote. The effects should last for about 12 hours.

As a thumb rule, be careful and never take high doses of a substance you never tried before.

Medicinal Use of Mescaline

There is limited scientific evidence available to support the therapeutic potential of mescaline. However, one study has shed light on the therapeutic potential of mescaline in psychotherapy. Generally, mescaline use was associated with self-reported improvements in psychiatric conditions and improved quality of life after mescaline use.

Participants reported marked improvements in depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse disorders. Improvement in psychiatric conditions was associated with psychological insight and ego dissolution. Further research is needed to shed light on the definitive therapeutic potential of mescaline.

Recreational Use of Mescaline

Mescaline is a hallucinogenic compound, so it has the potential to be used as a recreational narcotic. After indulging in recreational mescaline, users will usually vomit, which will usher them into a dreamy state. Here, they are likely to be in a trance where they lose touch with the outside world. A mescaline trip can last up to 12 hours.

In one study, only 11% of participants admitted to using illegal peyote in their lifetime. This indicates that the recreational use of mescaline may not be a common practice in the U.S.

Religious Use of Mescaline

For centuries, Native Americans have used peyote for religious ceremonies. A religious leader, aka a Shaman, usually presides over a peyote ceremony. People sit around a fire, and the Shaman leads them in chanting and singing as they indulge in peyote. This ceremony may last for 12 hours as the Shaman presides over it.

In Mexico, it is common for the Huichol and Wixáritari communities to embark on peyote pilgrimages through the desert. Along the way, they will stop indulging in peyote for spiritual enlightenment. Today, many people worldwide travel to the Mexican town of Real de Catorce to experience a religious peyote trip in the surrounding deserts. Faithfuls of the Native American Church partake in peyote rituals regularly.

Common Mescaline Effects

Mescaline interacts with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is present in the brain. This triggers changes in the brain that culminate in a mescaline trip. Peyote is bitter, and most users will not be able to withstand the taste. This will result in nausea and violent vomiting. In a few hours, users may begin to “hear colors and see sounds.” This is called synesthesia. A sense of overwhelming euphoria is a likely sequel, and the user will quickly fall into a trance-like state which may last for another 10 hours. This state is associated with spiritual enlightenment for some users, while for others, this is purely recreational.

Common mescaline effects include the following:

    • Visual and auditory hallucinations
    • Euphoria
    • Dream-like state
    • Synesthesia (distortions such as seeing sound or hearing colors)
    • Disorientation
    • Pupil dilation
    • Vomiting, headaches, and anxiety

Side Effects of Mescaline

There is a thin line between the effects of mescaline and its side effects. Common side effects include agitation, tachycardia, seizures, loss of consciousness, headaches, mood changes, poor appetite, insomnia, lack of coordination, nausea, and vomiting. Some of these “side” effects are what lead to a spiritual experience. Vomiting precipitates a trance-like state that many consider a moment of self-discovery, enlightenment, and connection with spiritual beings. For others, these effects are purely recreational.

Does Mescaline Cause Mental Health Issues?

One study has shown that mescaline is not linked to mental health issues. This study investigated the relationship between several psychedelic drugs (including mescaline) and mental health problems. The researchers found that there was no evidence suggesting that psychedelic drugs were triggers for mental health conditions. The data actually suggested a lower incidence of mood disorders, psychosis, psychological distress and anxiety after psychedelic use.

Addiction, Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal

Mescaline does not cause addiction. However, a user may gradually build a tolerance to mescaline over time, meaning that they may require increasingly more mescaline to achieve the same “level of high.”

Cross tolerance may also occur with prolonged mescaline use. When this happens, the user builds resistance to the effects of other drugs such as LSD and psilocybin as they increase their tolerance to mescaline.

How Long Does Mescaline Stay in Your System?

Mescaline stays in the blood for up to 24 hours. It may be detected in urine for up to two to three days. A hair follicle test can test positive for mescaline even up to 90 days after consumption. How long mescaline stays in your system is influenced by the following factors:

    •  Metabolism rate
    •  Body fat percentage
    •  Activity level
    •  Overall health

Is it Safe to Use Mescaline in Pregnancy?

Mescaline may be harmful to a growing fetus and should therefore not be used in pregnancy.

Drug Interactions: Never Mix Mescaline With Stimulant Drugs

When combined with stimulants, peyote can cause serious problems, including high blood pressure and increased heart rate. You should avoid taking stimulants with peyote, san pedro, or any other form of Mescaline.

Some examples of stimulant drugs include phentermine (Ionamin), diethylpropion (Tenuate), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), epinephrine (Epinephrine), and more.

Treatment for Mescaline Abuse

The FDA has not approved any drugs for the treatment of mescaline abuse. In the case of increased tolerance, supportive therapy may be helpful.


Mescaline is classified as a hallucinogenic compound. It is commonly used for religious purposes and in meditation and psychotherapy. It can also be taken recreationally. Preliminary research has shown that mescaline might have the potential to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and drug and substance abuse disorders.

Though it is not addictive, it may cause tolerance as well as cross-tolerance with other hallucinogenic compounds. Mescaline remains illegal under federal law; however, some states have permitted its use on some religious occasions by the Native American Church.