Mescaline: Physiological effects

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:30 pm

Most people who take peyote report that their first reaction is to the taste; the buttons taste bad. Sometimes, the initial effects of eating them are nausea and vomiting, especially if many buttons are consumed. Some people report taking as many as 30 at a time. If taken in tablet form, more of the drug might be ingested at once and all of the drug’s effects, good and bad, could be heightened.
About 30 minutes to over an hour after the buttons are eaten the drug’s effects are felt. While the hallucinations may be two hours long, the drug’s concentration in the brain and its other effects might last 10 to 12 hours.
As a result of the initial symptoms, it is rare for users to overdose on mescaline. However, this does not mean that mescaline is without other potentially dangerous physical effects. Mescaline can cause dilated pupils, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, dizziness, loss of appetite, dry mouth, sweating, numbness, anxiety, sleeplessness, uterine contractions, nausea, and tremors.
According to NIDA’s Research Report Series on Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs, most likely the drug works by disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate the areas in the brain that control behavior, perception, and the systems of the body that regulate such functions as hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, muscle control, and the senses.
Not much is known about hallucinogens in general and mescaline in particular. While much of the research has pointed to the close ties with serotonin, others are now looking at the similarity between mescaline and amphetamine, with which it shares an even closer similar structure. This is especially evident in the mescaline analogs such as ecstasy, which has an extreme amphetamine-like effect on users. Amphetamines affect the adrenal system.
Harmful side effects
Because of peyote’s bad taste, overdoses are rare. However, some of the drug’s side effects such as nausea, sweating, and tremors are experienced when doses of 300-500 mg are taken. Other adverse side effects may include slowing heartbeat and breathing, and contractions of the intestines and the uterus, which could be dangerous for pregnant women taking the drug.
Another concern is the user’s mental state. If a psychological disorder is already present, the user’s condition could be worsened. Some people, even those without existing psychoses, report panic reactions when taking the drug.
Unlike other drugs, when a frequent user stops taking mescaline, there are no withdrawal symptoms. In other words, peyote does not cause an addiction, or physical dependence on a drug. However, while using mescaline, a tolerance to psychedelics in general will develop, meaning it will take a larger dose for the user to get the same effects. This tolerance carries over if the user switches to other psychedelics such as LSD or psilocybin, but does not last if mescaline use is discontinued.
Purity of the drug is always a concern. If mescaline is taken in its dried button form, users are fairly assured it is the real thing. In tablet form, there is always the possibility of adulteration. Possible harmful side effects from the unknown drug or additive always pose a danger.
Long-term health effects
Mescaline is not considered addictive the way drugs such as heroin or methamphetamines are. Nevertheless, this does not mean it is without possible health consequences. When the drug is discontinued, and there is a dip in serotonin activity, a condition called dysphoria may result. Dysphoria is an overall feeling of anxiety, depression, restlessness, and general dissatisfaction, for which fluoxetine (Prozac) is sometimes prescribed for three to six months.
Psychedelic use can carry with it two long-term mental health problems that can be quite disturbing. These conditions are hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD), also known as flashbacks. HPPD may persist for years, long after a person stops taking mescaline. According the NIDA, “these episodes are spontaneous, repeated, sometimes continuous recurrences of some of the sensory distortions originally produced by LSD.” This holds true for mescaline, the organization says, as well as other hallucinogens.
Another long-term health effect of psychedelic use is persistent or drug-induced psychosis, in which former users can fall into a “long-lasting psychotic-like state.” They can appear severely depressed, have mood swings, and have hallucinations and visual disturbances. Like HPPD, persistent psychosis can last for years. Often it occurs in people who have no previous history of psychological problems.

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