Peyote is a small cactus that’s native to the deserts of southern Texas and Mexico. It’s one of the several cactus species that has a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid that causes hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD. Because of this, many people use the naturally-occurring drug to experience a peyote trip.
In the shade of a shrub in the Chihuahuan Desert, you may find a group of short, round cacti with a small white flower emerging from the top. You might find it unassuming as this little desert flora is lost in the overall landscape of the region. That is, unless you know what you’re looking for.
Cultures like the Navajo have been hunting down this cactus for over 5,000 years for use in spiritual experiences and medicinal purposes. A peyote trip is said to trigger deep emotional introspection, and users often come away from the experience claiming to have realized something deep about themselves. Others can’t shake the unrelenting nausea.
Today, peyote is a Schedule 1 drug in the US, but it’s still used legally by certain religious organizations like the Native American Church and illegally by curious psychonauts. Peyote is often compared to LSD and other serious psychedelic drugs. How dangerous is a peyote trip and what are the possible effects?
Peyote, among other cacti like the San Pedro cactus and Peruvian torch, contain mescaline. The mescaline drug is an alkaloid which is a naturally occurring chemical compound that is produced in a wide variety of plants and fungi and has several pharmacological applications. Mescaline is in a group of alkaloids with psychoactive effects that also includes morphine.
Peyote has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans in Mexico, and early European explorers also noted the use of the cactus. In religious ceremonies, the heads of the cactus would be cut off, leaving the roots behind to regrow the plant. The cactus head is dried into flat “peyote buttons” about the size of a quarter.
In early rituals, peyote buttons were chewed to facilitate a spiritual experience, or in some religions, open the door to commune with spirits. However, the plant is bitter, and it’s often ground up and swallowed in capsules when used today.
The psychoactive ingredient was first isolated in 1897 by a German chemist named Arthur Heffter and was later synthesized in 1919 by Ernst Spath.
Today, mescaline is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, and the government restricts its use, even for research purposes. However, some studies investigate its potential medical use.
Peyote Trips in Religious Experiences
Native Americans in the Texas and Mexico regions have used peyote for around 5,500 to 5,700 years. The Navajo and Huichol people and other groups integrate peyote into religious ceremonies and “spirit walks” because of its psychedelic effects. In the Huichol religion, shamans eat peyote to speak with the gods. They believe peyote itself to be a spirit that opens the way to other deities.
There is thought to be only one recorded death as a result of the ritualistic use of peyote. Ingesting the plant is known to cause nausea and, in some cases, vomiting, and there is one case of a Native American man who died of asphyxiation after vomiting to the point of causing lacerations in the esophagus. The wound caused him to aspirate blood and die. Of course, this represents a rare case.
The more immediate threat of the use of psychedelics is adverse emotional and psychological effects. Peyote trips, like most other psychedelic drugs, come with the risk of a bad trip. Terrifying experiences can cause PTSD or psychosis. However, there are very few instances of this in Native American populations that use peyote. One potential explanation for this is that the Navajo have psychological safeguards against negative emotional effects as a part of religious culture.
Effects of a Peyote Trip
Peyote has some effects on both the user’s body and psyche depending on the dose and the manner it is ingested. There are often different results when peyote is consumed versus when synthesized mescaline is introduced intravenously, especially as far as the trip duration is concerned. A peyote trip can last anywhere from eight to fourteen hours, depending on the amount taken.
Physical Peyote Trip Effects
One of the most typical physical effects of a peyote or mescaline trip is nausea and loss of appetite. Nausea is usually reported to subside gradually or after vomiting. However, first-time users are often advised to take small doses over a few hours rather than all at once, to avoid vomiting. Other physical effects include:
- Physical euphoria, or general comfort and warmth
- Frequent urination
- Faster heart rate
- Muscle contractions
- Dilated pupils
Many psychoactive and pharmaceutical substances can affect the user’s heart rate and blood pressure. While this is a mild effect to typical healthy users, people with predisposed heart conditions, hypertension, or heart disease can have dangerous reactions to drugs that have this effect.
Cognitive Mescaline and Peyote Trip Effects
Peyote and it’s active ingredient, mescaline have psychedelic effects similar to DMT, LSD, and psilocybin. However, there are a few effects that seem to be unique to a mescaline or peyote trip. Effects are usually characterized by color changes, empathy enhancement, and changes to the way users process time. One of the unique effects is that a peyote trip seems to trigger deep introspection. Other psychological effects include:
- Pronounced empathy and emotion
- Color changes
- Pronounced pattern recognition
- Closed eye hallucinations
- Open eye hallucinations
- Increased libido
Psychotic episodes have been recorded in individuals who had pre-existing mental disorders. Though rare, psychosis can occur in people who are predisposed to mental illness or have existing mental disorders. Also, as with any psychedelic substance, a peyote trip can be dangerous if the user is up and moving or in public. Most deaths caused by psychedelic drugs come from a physical injury sustained in accidents.
Addiction and Abuse
There is no evidence to suggest that peyote can cause physical dependence or addiction. However, there is a small risk of developing psychological addiction especially since a peyote trip can cause physical and mental euphoria.