Drug Guide

Mescaline

By Anthony McDaniel, M.D.

Mescaline or 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine is a naturally-occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class used mainly as an entheogen.It occurs naturally in the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) and the Peruvian Torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana), and in a number of other members of the Cactaceae plant family. It is also found in small amounts in certain members of the Fabaceae (bean) family, including Acacia berlandieri. Mescaline was first isolated and identified in 1897 by the German Arthur Heffter and first synthesized in 1919 by Ernst Späth. The visual distortions produced by mescaline are somewhat different from those of LSD. The subjective "open-eye visuals" are not true hallucinations as they are consistent with actual experience and manifest as intensifications and alterations of existing stimuli (objects and sounds), not the appearance of non-existent fanciful objects or actions that the user believes are real; the appearance of non-existent persons or objects is a feature of true hallucinations, and believing that the hallucinations are "real" is a defining feature of delusions, which is not a "typical" effect of mescaline. Prominence of color is distinctive, appearing brilliant and intense. Placing a strobing light in front of closed eyelids can produce brilliant visual effects at the peak of the experience. Recurring visual patterns observed during the mescaline experience include stripes, checkerboards, angular spikes, multicolored dots, and very simple fractals which turn very complex. Aldous Huxley described these self transforming amorphous shapes as like animated stained glass illuminated from light coming through the eyelids. Like LSD, mescaline induces distortions of form and kaleidoscopic experiences but which manifest more clearly with eyes closed and under low lighting conditions; however, all of these visual descriptions are purely subjective. Research into the root causes for the patterns associated with mescaline, LSD and DMT have given rise to mathematical theories that explain the biological processes that are altered by molecules like mescaline.

As with LSD, synesthesia can occur especially with the help of music. An unusual but unique characteristic of mescaline use is the "geometricization" of three-dimensional objects. The object can appear flattened and distorted, similar to the presentation of a Cubist painting. Mescaline elicits a pattern of sympathetic arousal, with the peripheral nervous system being a major target for this drug. Effects last for up to 12 hours. Peyote has been used for over 3000 years by Native Americans in Mexico. Europeans noted use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies upon early contact, notably by the Huichols in Mexico. Other mescaline-containing cacti such as the San Pedro have a long history of use in South America, from Peru to Ecuador. In traditional peyote preparations the top of the cactus is cut at ground level, leaving the large tap roots to grow new 'Heads'. These 'Heads' are then dried to make disk-shaped buttons. Buttons are chewed to produce the effects or soaked in water for an intoxicating drink. However, the taste of the cactus is bitter, so users will often grind it into a powder and pour it in capsules to avoid having to taste it. The usual human dosage is 200–400 milligrams of mescaline sulfate or 178–356 milligrams of mescaline hydrochloride. The average 3 inch button contains about 25 mg mescaline. Aldous Huxley described his experience with mescaline in The Doors of Perception. Aleister Crowley reported using mescaline in his diary. The sex psychologist Havelock Ellis also tried mescaline. Hunter S. Thompson recounted his use of mescaline in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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