Mescalin - effects, risks, dangers

Mescalin - effects, risks, dangers

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Mescaline is a substance found in the peyote cactus, as well as in the cacti of the genus Echinopsis. Many other cactus plants contain the drug in very low concentrations. Louis Lewin extracted alkaloids containing mescaline from the peyote cactus, and in 1896 Arthur Heffter isolated pure peyote mescaline. Ernst Späth produced the psychoactive substance synthetically after 1919.

How does mescaline work?

Mescaline has a structure similar to 3-methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MMDA), the methoxy analogue of 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). Comparable hallucinogens are 3,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), 2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA-2) and 2,4,6-trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA-6).

The substance binds and activates the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A and the serotonin receptor 5-HT2C. Serotonin is our happiness hormone, and mescaline increases its release. That is why users feel happy, euphoric and "the world is wrapped in a gentle veil". However, the intoxication often begins with nausea and vomiting. The first phase is characterized by hyperactivity and restlessness, comparable to the symptoms of the attention deficit disorder.

Changed perception

Only in the second phase does the perception change slightly, consumers perceive colors more intensely, dream images and visual hallucinations spread out when they are awake. All senses are perceived significantly more strongly: smells, noises and sightings appear much more intensely.

There are effects that are known from shamanic journeys: those affected see talking animals, things change their size, small objects appear enlarged, and distances shorten or lengthen. The users still retain a certain perception of reality - the intoxication does not correspond to an openly erupting psychosis.

Like LSD, mescaline can lead to "horror trips", but these are rare in the first place and rarely occur in a carefully chosen setting. In general, people who consume mescaline unprepared and / or who are mentally unstable suffer from terrible images.

Horror trips

Some users view the “horror trips” as particularly revealing and appreciate them as a kind of crash psychotherapy that brings fears of the subconscious to the surface much faster than would be the case with conventional psychotherapy - but this poses great dangers. Those who are confronted with such images without a stable framework by a teacher and a protected atmosphere will feel "in hell" for several hours.
Mescaline works with an oral sulfate dose of around 200 mg for up to 9 hours, the after-effects can still occur after 12 hours.

Mescaline hazards

The "shaman drug" has a psychoactive effect, and as with most psychoactive substances, there is sometimes no return ticket if there is insufficient experience with the "monsters of the human psyche".

Clinically, this means that mescaline can trigger substance-induced psychosis and lead to permanent perception disorders. In general, however, this risk is lower than with LSD. In Indian societies it is considered a crime to take peyote without the introduction and presence of a teacher. Psychiatrically this means: Excessive excitement during and after a mescaline rush can be calmed down by calming conversations.

To date, there is no study that suggests a connection between mescaline use and psychiatric problems - at least one use of mescaline at least once is probably not an independent risk factor for mental disorders.

Increased risk

Antidepressants, known as MAOIs, should never be used in conjunction with mescaline. This includes the hallucinogen Ayahuasca, the drug of the Amazon shamans. Since beginners often first want to consume all sorts of “shamanic substances” in order to “go on a journey”, there is a great risk of taking Ayahuasca and Mescalin together.

Stay away from Ayahuasca

But Ayahuasca strengthens the effects of agents that act on the serotonin to a high and uncontrollable extent. There is danger to life because the triggered serotonin syndrome can paralyze the control of the respiratory muscles. Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and, in the worst case, respiratory arrest and death occur in a few minutes.

Hippies and scientists

Mescalin was fashionable in the hippie scene of the 1960s and, like LSD, was seen as a way to reach higher levels of awareness. In the southwestern United States, the drug found its way into art and inspired countless psychedelic paintings, stories, and pieces of music.

Indian wisdom?

While psychologists researched the psychological effects, esotericists saw vulgar adaptations of Indian ideas as the visual worlds in the mescaline rush as an insight into other worlds of the supersensible. Traditional American natives are irritated by those mescaline fans who go to Indian reservations and think they can buy a "real shamanic experience" with a few dollars for peyote buttons. In addition to the improper appropriation of cultural rituals by tired middle-class citizens, they criticize above all the psychological dangers that an unreasonable use of the substance entails.

The Indian cultures know only too well people who call the Navajos “lost”, who are caught in the psychedelic effects of mescaline. For the natives, however, the intoxication is not an end in itself, it is about the content and the interpretation of the psychological experiences made with the help of Mescalin.

Brave New World and esoteric kitsch

Brave New World writer Aldous Huxley was as much a fan of Mescalin as war writer Ernst Jünger. The author of "The Yaqui Way of Knowledge", Carlos Castaneda also devoted himself to the effects of mescaline and wrote various stories about allegedly shamanic experiences that he claimed to have had with a teacher named Don Juan.

His books became a cult in the esoteric scene, presumably because he designed an image of a psychedelic "other world" that met the needs of the "liberal" American middle class. Elder Ones of the Yaqui distanced themselves from Castaneda's remarks and there is much to suggest that it is fictional literature and not real events.

Legal or illegal?

Mescalin has been subject to the Narcotics Act in Germany since 1967. The UN has been using it as a prohibited psychotropic substance since 1971. In the United States, people can go to jail for possession of these five years. The use and possession of mescaline is generally punishable without a special permit.

However, this expressly does not apply to the possession of the living cacti that contain mescaline. The prerequisite is that the owners have the cacti solely for botanical interest.

The peyote cult

The peyote cult is common among American natives. At the center of this psycho-religious ritual is self-purification and spiritual travel, which is promoted by the cactus species. In Mexico and Mesoamerica, peyote has been used for many centuries as a shamanic plant, which Indian teachers used in rituals that, in their imagination, served to contact the spirits of the deceased and nature.

In contrast to popular clichés, the cult only developed in North America when the indigenous people there were defeated militarily and penned into reservations. The cactus is therefore not an old Indian teacher plant in North America.

The effects of the plants open up the participants to talk about psychological problems and their feelings, thus eliminating alienation. Consequently, confession is a central part of the ritual. This can be done both before and after swallowing the peyote buttons.

In the peyote cult it is considered damaging to keep sins committed. In the ritual, those involved should openly name mistakes.


The peyote cactus grows in a small area in the arid south of Texas and the adjacent north of Mexico. The Mescalero-Apatschen get their name from the substance in the cactus, the comants knew it as Wokoni, the Kiowa as Seni and the Tarahumara as Hikari.

The Komantschen and Kiowa had little use for the hallucinogenic plant when they lived in freedom. Both lived until the second half of the 19th century as equestrian warriors and bison hunters, who penetrated far into Mexico on their raids.

An old teacher plant

At that time the caddo, carrizo, mescalero and lipan apaches, the karankawa and tonkawa used peyote in ceremonies. Omer Stewart writes, “Within these six tribes in the United States, we find the origin of the peyote ceremony. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, these are the tribes that lived in or near the natural occurrence of peyote. Everyone was familiar with its ritual use. ” There is evidence that many of these strains, particularly the Mescalero, had known peyote for decades.

Forced exchange

In the 1870s, the American government deported various tribes from both the south-west and south-west and even from the east of the United States to what is now known as Oklahoma, the so-called Indian Territory, in a sort of collective reserve. Now peoples from the Peyote area came into contact with others who had never heard of the cactus. The use of the plant spread through the reservations.

However, the exchange created by genocide and forced relocation was not the only reason why the peyote cult emerged. The Kiowa and Komantschen, for example, had known the plant for a long time, but had never given it greater importance.

They had lived an exciting life as free people. They lived in America's Serengeti amidst bison herds that numbered millions of animals. They lived in the midst of wapiti deer, trestles, pumas, wolves, coyotes, foxes, badgers, prairie chickens such as prairie dogs, rattlesnakes and eagles, and the hunt was so abundant that warrior groups had the leisure to advance thousands of kilometers on raids into central Mexico.

In short: Anyone who rode through man-sized prairie flowers in June, set up camp under the bizarre rock formations of the Chisco Mountains, unrolled under his horse's belly with a foot strap, tamed wild Mustangs without violence, and a terrain of almost unassailable in the center of the southern Plains roaming the size of Central Europe, he needed little additional substances to experience extraordinary experiences.

A substitute for freedom

In 1874, the last US Army Kwahadi surrenders surrendered, and the last survivors of the "Lords of the Plains" were starved to death in miserable open-air prisons. The coman chief, Quanah Parker, however, proved to be a brilliant politician even after the military defeat. He trained the bison hunters to be cattle breeders and propagated the peyote cult.

Quanah had realized that the once proud comants suffered more than hunger from the boredom of reserve life. The cactus, however, brought gentle and peaceful visions that at least provided a certain replacement for the lost freedom.

Delaware John Wilson invented the cult in the narrower sense after taking Peyote and was enthusiastic about the visions.

The Native American Church

The Native American Church was founded in Oklahoma, officially founded in 1918. Its first sponsor was the Kiowa. Unlike the ban on mescaline in the United States in general, members of the Native American Church have been allowed to use the plant in their rituals since 1978, but for "only traditional and ceremonial purposes related to the practice of a traditional Indian religion."

The members of the Native American Church themselves strictly reject the use of peyote outside of the ritual. In Indian cultures in North America, the consumption of mind-altering substances was part of a holistic view of the world in which humans represented only one element in the interrelated structure of animals, plants, stones and spirits.

The slightest mistake in a ritual could and can have the worst consequences in this imagination. They rigorously reject excessive consumption of teacher plants for the purpose of drug intoxication and regard substance users as people who have lost their existential connection to the spirit world - as sick people who need to be healed. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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