For 20th-century biochemist Alexander Shulgin, perhaps better known as the godfather of psychedelics, it all started with using mescaline and writing down his experiences. The world, he wrote, once again amazed him because he saw it like he did when he was a kid. He was describing the first experience he had with mescaline way back in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, after that experience, Shulgin continued to study (and many cases also synthesize) large numbers of other psychoactive substances - and over time he (and most other scientists) largely forgot about mescaline. The final nail in the mescaline coffin was when the US and many other nations outlawed psychedelics in 1970.
It took nearly 50 years for things to change. Canadian bioscience giant Xphyto Therapeutics Corp. has recently announced that it was adding mescaline to its existing psychedelic medication program.
The company intends to start producing pharmaceutical-grade mescaline firstly for the wholesale industry and secondly for incorporation into its ‘thin film’ platforms. A spokesperson for the firm said this substance showed particular promise for treating mental health issues and addiction.
What Exactly Is Mescaline?
Mescaline is what is known in scientific circles as a psychedelic hallucinogen. It is derived from not only the Peruvian torch cactus, but also the San Pedro cactus, the spineless cactus Peyote, and other cacti that contain mescaline. Peyote is of course quite common in Mexico and the southwest of the United States. The Peruvian Torch cactus and the San Pedro cactus can both be found in South America. Mescaline can also be found in various members of the Fabaceae family (a type of bean) - and it can be manufactured synthetically.
A little-known truth about mescaline is that it has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals for hundreds of years because of the fact that it causes intense and very rich hallucinations. From the start of recorded history, the natives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico have been using it during their traditional religious rites.
It took many years for Western scientists to take note of mescaline. It was only identified by them in 1897 - and it took another 22 years before they learned how to synthesize it in 1919. The first systematic clinical trials started in Germany the next year.
How Safe Is It To Use Mescaline?
Similar to psilocybin and ketamine, mescaline is regarded as generally safe. And despite what you might have read about it in the popular media, the risk of addiction is extremely low. Similar to LSD and psilocybin, mescaline is able to create its truly mind-altering effects mainly via the same receptor in the brain that is typically triggered by the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Unlike LSD and psilocybin, however, mescaline is part of the same group of phenethylamines that amphetamines and ecstasy belong to. Note: Phenethylamine is a chemical that appears naturally in the human body. If is often used for treating depression, to boost athletic performance, to improve attention and mood, and to help people lose weight.
How Is Mescaline Typically Used?
The crown of the cactus (the top part that grows above the ground) has a couple of disc-shaped buttons. These are cut off with a sharp blade and then dried. The buttons are either chewed or turned into a tea by soaking them in water. While they can be consumed dried or raw, they are very bitter. The buttons can also be ground into a fine powder and then used for making capsules. And finally, they can also be smoked with tobacco or marijuana.
It typically takes around an hour for the hallucinogenic experience to start but once it starts, it lasts unusually long - anywhere between 8 and 12 hours. The same dose can, however, have a different effect on different people.
What Are The Immediate Effects When You Use Mescaline?
The psychedelic experience produced by mescaline is in many cases an enlightening and pleasurable experience. If you suffer from deep underlying issues, however, it can be quite unpleasant and even produce anxiety. For many users, this is, however, part of the healing process because it makes them face their deepest selves.
Common effects people experience after using mescaline can include:
- A psychedelic experience, i.e. a dramatically changed state of consciousness with visual hallucinations
- Feelings of happiness and euphoria
- Visualizations. These can happen both when your eyes are closed and when they are open
- An altered image of your body
- Going into a state that resembles dreaming
- Your perceptions of the world and the space around you might change completely
- Laughter might often accompany the feelings of euphoria
- It might feel as if time is slowing down significantly
- Your pupils might often become dilated
- Sense confusion or synesthesia. This means you might start hearing colors or seeing sounds
What Benefits Are Associated With The Use Of Mescaline?
Since mescaline is still banned in the United States, it is quite understandably not easy to get your hands on research results. Several overseas studies have, however, suggested that this substance could be used to successfully treat various mental health conditions.
Mescaline is believed to boost the activity and blood flow in your prefrontal cortex. Reduced activity in this part of the brain has been linked to anxiety and depression. This has led many scientists to believe that very small doses of mescaline (i.e. microdosing) should be able to alleviate these conditions.
At the University of Alabama, researchers also discovered that the use of traditional psychedelic drugs such as mescaline might have the potential to help control suicidal thoughts.
A separate study revealed that mescaline is linked with a reduction in the symptoms associated with agoraphobia, something that could (at least theoretically) be an increasing concern after the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and the long lockdowns associated with that.
In another study, this time at Harvard University, a researcher found evidence that mescaline could help to reduce rates of drug abuse and alcoholism among Native Americans. There is no reason to believe that the same results will not be achieved among other population groups.
More Benefits Associated With The Use Of Mescaline
It can help to promote a deeply spiritual experience
Mescaline is renowned for causing psychoactive experiences and mind-altering states that promote deep insight. Users typically experience what is known as synesthesia. This term refers to a situation where a second stimulus is automatically triggered by the first one. An example is when someone hears a sound and it automatically triggers the visualization of a certain color. For many users, this is akin to a profoundly spiritual experience.
Mescaline (in the form of peyote) can play a positive role in problem-solving
The mescaline contained in the peyote cactus has often been linked to improved problem-solving abilities. A pilot study involving 27 participants discovered that mescaline boosted a person’s ability to creatively solve problems. The effect lasted for several weeks after the initial dose.
Mescaline can help to make people feel happier
Researchers have discovered that there exists a possible link between using psychedelics such as mescaline and a reduction in the dark moods associated with depression. How it works is not 100% clear at the moment, but the drug is believed to activate the serotonin receptors in the brain. In this way, it could have a positive effect on the neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating perceptions and mood.
Mescaline might benefit learning abilities
Scientists who took part in another research project found that mescaline could also help with learning. They reached this conclusion after finding that mescaline is able to help goldfish learn how to avoid a shock more quickly during a shock-avoidance experiment.
Mescaline could reduce the likelihood of violent crime
In many instances, mescaline acts like an empathogen, i.e. it positively impacts the social and emotional behavior of the user. Statistics gathered by the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that individuals who took a psychedelic drug such as mescaline have a reduced likelihood of committing a violent crime compared to people who have not taken it. There was a remarkable 18% drop in the chances of being arrested for a violent crime among these individuals and a 27% drop in the likelihood of them being involved in theft.
Psychedelic substances like mescaline might make people more environmentally friendly
We agree that this might sound strange. But a 2017 study found a direct link between the use of psychedelic substances such as mescaline and an increase in environmentally-friendly actions such as recycling and vegetarianism. These individuals also showed an increased sense of oneness with the world they live in and more positive behavior.
Anecdotal evidence shows more health benefits
Even though no scientific research has so far been carried out on the use of mescaline for pain reduction, the peyote plant (a known source of mescaline) has for many years been used by Mexicans to treat joint pain, headache, toothache, and skin diseases.
Risks Or Side Effects Associated With Taking Mescaline
At this stage, we would like to emphasize again that mescaline is relatively safe and it does not cause physical dependence. A very small minority of users do, however, become psychologically dependent on this substance. It is more common for someone to develop a tolerance to mescaline after using it for a long time.
Below are some of the most common side effects people might experience when using mescaline (Please note: Not everyone will have all (or any) of these experiences):
- Blood pressure might increase
- Enhanced perceptual and sensory experiences
- Feelings of dizziness
- Experiencing a feeling of weakness
- Motor control issues
- Body temperature that’s higher than normal
- Excessive sweating
- Losing one’s appetite
- Pupils becoming dilated
Using mescaline over a long period of time might cause what is sometimes referred to as ‘flashbacks’. The medical term for this is ‘hallucinogen persisting perception disorder”. Although this could theoretically happen to someone who has only taken mescaline once, this is very rare. Experiencing flashbacks after using mescaline only once is typically limited to individuals with an existing psychiatric condition.
More About The Latest Research Into The Therapeutic Properties of Mescaline
One of the first clinical mescaline trials in modern times is currently being conducted by Matthias Liechti, a pharmacologist at the Basel University Hospital in Switzerland. The study involves around 30 volunteers who are not suffering from any medical conditions. It compares the effects of mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD by using physical and psychological assessments such as functional magnetic resonance imaging. In 2022, Liechti and his team also launched a study involving mescaline dosing with 16 volunteers. Both studies are expected to be finalized by the middle of 2023.
Another study (of which the results were published in The Journal Of Psychopharmacology in March 2022) involved 452 participants who completed an Internet-based survey that was specifically developed to get more information about users’ experiences with mescaline. These individuals had to answer questions about the type of mescaline they used and the outcomes and effects they experienced.
The vast majority (74%) of participants said they had used mescaline less than once per year to connect with nature or for a spiritual experience. A relatively small number of them said they had drug cravings (9%).
Only 1% of the participants said they experienced psychological issues after using mescaline - and nobody felt the need to seek medical attention. Generally speaking, participants reported experiencing ‘moderate’ mystical-type effects.
The majority of respondents said that they enjoyed the most memorable experiences with mescaline when they used San Pedro and Peyote.
Nearly 50% of participants reported that they suffered from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression and the majority of them (more than 67%) said that their conditions improved after they used mescaline.
The Bottom Line About Mescaline Therapy
The latest research seems to support earlier findings that mescaline (irrespective of the form in which it is taken) could cause a psychedelic experience that isn’t only deeply spiritual, but also comes with clear mental health benefits. Another plus is that there is a remarkably low potential for abuse.
Sascha Mayr · 10/19/2022