Mescaline: effects of this hallucinogenic drug

There is a wide variety of substances in nature with different psychoactive effects. Some of them have mainly activating effects, others depressants and others which are characterized by hallucinations and alterations in perception. Many of these substances have been used since ancient times, sometimes for religious purposes.

In other cases, the active ingredients have been extracted from plants or the elements that contain them to research or seek medicinal use. And in some cases, they are used for recreational purposes. One of the most well-known hallucinogenic drugs after amphetamines is mescaline.


    Hallucinogens are a type of substance classified in the group of psychodyseptics. These are drugs that cause an alteration in the functioning of the nervous system, being notorious its effect on the perception of the one who consumes them.

    These effects are based on an alteration in perception, not necessarily in the form of hallucination, as well as the activation or inhibition of the activity which can lead to mood changes. Most people who turn to hallucinogens do so in search of mystical or religious experiences, and although they are addictive, they are usually not used as commonly as other types of drugs.

    Its consumption is not trivial, can cause different types of problems such as poisoning that can endanger the person who consumed them, various physiological effects, psychotic episodes, depersonalization, mood disorders caused by substances and even personality changes. The presence of “bad trips,” aversive hallucinatory experiences with high levels of panic and anxiety, is also common.

    There are many types of hallucinogens, many of them (and especially the best known) chemically synthesized. However, some of these substances are made from plants that exist in nature; this is the case with mescaline.

    Mescaline: description of the substance

    Mescaline is a psychotomimetic hallucinogen. It is an alkaloid phenylalkylamine extracted mainly from two types of cacti, the more famous mezcal and peyote, although there are other varieties of cacti like Saint-Pierre that also contain it.

    Initially, it generates a feeling of euphoria to then move on to a sedation phase. The consumption of mescaline causes alterations in perception, including vision in which the color of objects is perceived with more intensity and brightness. They also tend to see geometric patterns.

    It is also common for there to be an increase in artistic sensitivity and perception of visual and sound art (which is why several artists have used it at times). Likewise, it tends to generate situations of introspection and deep reflection on life itself and existence.

    Visions and hallucinations may present variable in nature. The presence of hallucinations usually requires high doses. Sometimes there can be depersonalization and loss of sense of space-time

    Effects tend to appear around the middle to three quarters of an hour, and can last between eight and twelve hours. However, in some cases up to four hours have been recorded. Compared to LSD, mescaline has been described as much less potent and with less psychedelic effect.

      Action in the brain: mechanism of action

      The mechanism of action of mescaline is based on its binding to adrenergic receptors, in particular to serotonin receptors, of which it is an agonist. More precisely, there are several types of these receptors involved in the generation of hallucinations, resulting in 5-HT2C and 5-HT2A receptors closely related to this type of symptom.

      It has also been observed that this substance prevents cerebral glutamate as well as sodium from not oxidizing.

      In the case of mescaline, it has been observed that especially in the hypothalamus, an important brain nucleus in which the integration of different information and coordinates the relationship between the neuroendocrine system and the limbic system. It affects the regulation of the autonomic nervous system, perception and management of mood and behavior.

      Uses given to this substance

      Used since antiquity with religious and spiritual motives by indigenous tribes of South and Central America (Peyote was already used by the Aztecs in religious rituals), has also been the subject of scientific research concerning the exploration of the psyche, self-awareness and perceptual phenomena. Today, it is often used for recreational purposes.

      However, this type of substance is complicated and expensive to isolate, so it should be borne in mind that the version which is generally sold illegally in a large number of cases is adulterated or another substance is sold directly as such (usually LSD).

      Side effects and health risks

      Mescaline, like other hallucinogenic substances, can cause side effects of varying severity. The most common are the presence of nausea and vomiting.

      In poisoning, it is common to occur lack of coordination, blurred vision, hyperthermia, Increased cardiorespiratory rate and tachycardia, decreased sensitivity and pupil dilation. It is also common for alterations in spatio-temporal perception, hallucinations and feelings of unrealization to appear.

      In the event of a bad trip, fear, panic and anxiety often appear. You can also quickly go from fear to euphoria, hyperactivity and aggression. Flashbacks and psychotic episodes may appear. No cases of abstinence have been reported, but tolerance and psychic tolerance (although not physical) are generated.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Bussmann RW, Sharon D (2006). “Traditional Use of Medicinal Plants in Northern Peru: Followed by Two Thousand Years of Healing Culture.” J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2 (1): 47.
        • Neff, N. and Rossi, GV (1963). Mescaline. I am J. Pharm. Science. Supporting Public Health, 135: 319-327.
        • Otero, LA (2001), Hallucinogenic Plants. Editorial Paidotribo.

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