Mescaline Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has declared mescaline to have no acceptable medical use and a high risk of physical and/or psychological abuse.
Mescaline, or 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, is a psychedelic hallucinogen that grows naturally in certain cacti plants. These plants — the San Pedro cactus, the Peruvian torch cactus, the peyote cactus, and members of the Fabaceae family — are native to the Southwest United States, Mexico, and South America.
The plant has been included in Native American ceremonial and medicinal rituals for thousands of years. It remains legal in some tribal nations for religious purposes, but mescaline is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States.
Learn more about mescaline use and abuse, and how to seek help if you need treatment.
How Mescaline Works
Mescaline is a serotonin receptor agonist. This means that the drug stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that our brains also produce naturally. It boosts positive moods and promotes relaxation. Researchers believe that mescaline revs up the production of serotonin in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which causes hallucinations and other effects.
It selectively binds to and activates the 5-hydroxytryptamine 2A receptor, which excites neurons and leads to prominent hallucinogenic effects. Mescaline also stimulates dopamine receptors. But it is not clear if mescaline acts as a dopamine receptor agonist or if it initiates the release of dopamine.
Is Mescaline Addictive?
Even with all these potential effects, mescaline is one of the milder hallucinogens. People take it for hallucinogenic effects, just like LSD. But LSD is approximately 4,000 times more potent than mescaline in producing altered states of consciousness.
Mescaline has the lowest potency of all naturally occurring hallucinogens. It is 30 times less potent than psilocybin. People prefer it to other hallucinogens because it lasts for much longer than other substances.
Despite its terrible taste and low potency, people can develop a tolerance to mescaline very quickly. Tolerance is increased resistance to a substance so that more and more of the substance is needed to achieve the same effects.
The more times a person takes the drug, the closer they will get to the original experience. But they will never have quite the same experience as the first time. Chasing this original state causes a growing dependency. An individual needs to have more and more mescaline to find the pleasurable sensations they once experienced.
Mescaline doesn’t have any immediate withdrawal symptoms, even with regular use. Withdrawal happens when the body develops a tolerance and becomes physically dependent on a substance. It causes many physical and psychological effects once a person has stopped using a substance. With mescaline, a person might have mild symptoms after they stop using the drug, such as depression and anxiety. But, in general, no serious withdrawal syndrome develops.
A few people who use mescaline regularly risk developing hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder. This is commonly known as having flashbacks, where people can feel as though they are high on mescaline even though they haven’t taken the drug.
This can be extremely disorienting and disturbing when it happens. It can also happen while a person is at work or school, with other people, or when they could put lives in danger, such as while driving.
Mescaline Side Effects
As stated above, people usually take the buttons off a cactus containing mescaline and dry them to either chew or soak in water and drink like tea. It can also be smoked, injected, or swallowed in tablet or powder form.
The effects of mescaline usually begin about 1-2 hours after taking it. It has many varied effects, and each user will experience them differently, but these are some of the more pronounced ones:
- Altered Sensory and Perceptual Experiences. Mescaline makes people perceive colors and sounds much differently than normal. Many people report that colors seem brighter and they have superhuman hearing. Sometimes people have vivid hallucinations, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. Other effects include an altered sense of time, with time seeming to move much more slowly; altered perception of space with a blurring together of self and others/objects; crossed perceptual experiences such as “hearing color” or “seeing touch,” often called synesthesia; and a distorted sense of self, often feeling they are floating or sinking.
- Altered Thought Patterns. Mescaline use can disrupt a person’s thought patterns, causing them to have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time. One can have the sense that they have no control over thought patterns, so they often sound very confusing to people not on the drug. A person might experience drastic and volatile mood swings. It can also cause anxiety or a “bad trip.”
- Issues with Judgment. Individuals might experience obvious problems with judgment and problem-solving skills. This can be seriously risky. It can cause poor decision-making or a lack of inhibitions, leading a person to behave in unusual ways. Some might put themselves in dangerous situations. People might feel like they are having a mind-expanding experience, but they still have to deal with these issues.
- Dangerous Hallucinations. One of the worst side effects of mescaline abuse is that the delusions it brings seem so real. An individual who takes mescaline might see and hear things that don’t exist but believe that they are absolutely real. This can put them and those around them in real danger. Mixed with the belief that they are “awakening” or elevating their consciousness, they can easily decide or agree to do things that aren’t safe. It can also lead to panic, paranoia, and psychosis. People have been known to harm themselves while taking hallucinogens.
1. Physical Effects
In addition to the psychological effects of mescaline use, there are also many physical effects of taking this drug, such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- A rise in body temperature
- Diminished appetite
- Changes in breathing
- Motor reflex impairment
- Dilated pupils
2. GI Troubles
While the above physical side effects can be horrible, what cacti containing mescaline can do to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can be just as terrible. For instance, using mescaline can induce severe nausea and vomiting.
This is an important aspect of its use in traditional Native American ceremonies—the use of the drug in the ceremony is considered a cleansing ritual or spiritual aid. Still, it can lead to extreme sickness and dehydration.
3. Additional Prescription Medication Contraindications
People taking prescription medications might also be at risk when taking mescaline. There are no reliable studies to determine the effects of various drug interactions, but some can be severe. Some prescription medications affect the brain and influence serotonin levels. These, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, cause dangerous results when mixed with mescaline.
Other drugs affect the heart or circulatory system. They tend to have stimulant effects, leading to elevated blood pressure, rapid pulse, and other dangerous outcomes.
Mescaline use can be seriously unpredictable. The effects depend on so many different details, such as:
- Whether the person has taken hallucinogenic drugs in the past
- The person’s body chemistry and metabolism
- The person’s emotional state upon taking the drug
Some people report feeling total euphoria, a sense of profound peace, and nothing but pleasant sensations. In others, it can cause anxiety, confusion, depression, and paranoia, sometimes even leading to prolonged psychosis.
A “bad trip” on mescaline often includes horrifying hallucinations, which may inflict lasting trauma on a person.
If you believe a loved one is suffering from mescaline addiction or abuse, call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439.
Additional Adverse Mescaline Side Effects
In addition to some of the above-mentioned desired effects (when used ceremonially , there are other adverse effects of mescaline abuse, including:
Agitation is a state of anxiety or nervous excitement. People taking mescaline can experience this feeling out of nowhere. Sometimes they are excessively worried about things like getting arrested or going crazy. These worries can add to general anxiety.
Agitation can also cause panic or panic attacks, which is common in people who have taken hallucinogens. This can lead to dangerous agitated behavior, like believing a person can fly, running off into crowded areas with traffic, and other unsafe actions.
2. Disturbing Hallucinations
Hallucinations are one of the desired effects of taking mescaline, but they can also be incredibly disturbing. Hearing or seeing things that have no basis in reality can lead a person to engage in dangerous activities or carry out dangerous commands. Even when people know these hallucinations aren’t real, they can still be very troubling and frightening.
Tachycardia refers to a rapid heart rate of over 100 beats per minute. This isn’t always problematic on its own, but when a person is high on drugs, it can often create anxiety. This can increase the heart rate even more. If a person believes they are going to have a heart attack, they may start having a panic attack.
Treatment for Mescaline Abuse
Treatment for substance abuse and addiction is key to taking back control of your life. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, seeking treatment is essential. Mescaline is neither safe nor legal. Even though the drug might not be addictive, long-term use can overtake a person’s life — and lead to experimentation with other drugs. These other drugs can have greater risks of addiction and overdose.
There are no current FDA-approved medications to treat mescaline abuse. The best path is to discontinue use and seek behavioral support and treatment. People can become addicted to certain behaviors and feelings that mescaline induces. Behavioral therapy can help you get to the root of addiction and learn healthier ways to cope.
Individual therapy, group therapy, and support groups can help those recovering from mescaline use. Zinnia Health offers inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Recover from mescaline use disorder today. Call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439.