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Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)

PeyotePeyote is Schedule I in the United States. This means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute without a DEA license, unless it is being used as part of “bonafide religious ceremonies” as per 42 USC §1996a.

Addictive Potential: None

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Unknown

Mechanism of Action: The primary active constituent, Mescaline, binds to and activates the serotonin 5-HT(2A) receptor


Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a hallucinogen that is traditionally dried and eaten in a ritual setting to induce spiritual and/or visionary experiences. From earliest recorded time, peyote has been used by indigenous peoples, such as the Huichol of northern Mexico and the Navajo in the southwestern United States, as a part of traditional religious rites. In the late 1800s, the tradition began to spread northward as part of a revival of native spirituality under the auspices of what came to be known as the Native American Church (NAC).

Peyote is a small button shaped cactus 2-5 inches in diameter, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) and grows in Mexico and the Southwest United States. Mescaline causes subjective effects by increasing serotonin via the activation of the 5-HT(2A) receptor.

Peyote has been used as a spiritual tool to aid people in consciousness exploration for thousands of years. In recent years it has been labeled, somewhat derogatorily, as an illegal Schedule I Hallucinogen. That said, we must keep in mind that historically it was considered a divine plant. Even though peyote use is illegal for most people in the United States, it is legal for NAC members to use peyote within the context of specified religious ceremonies. This is because, in 1994, congress passed an amendment to the American Indian Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizing peyote use for NAC members.

A resurgence of interest in the use of peyote was spawned in the 1970s by accounts of its use in the early works of writer Carlos Castaneda. Don Juan Matus, the pseudonym for Castaneda’s instructor in the use of peyote, used the name “Mescalito” to refer to an entity that purportedly can be sensed by those using peyote to gain insight in how to live one’s life. Later works of Castaneda asserted that the use of such psychotropic substances was not necessary to achieve heightened awareness and de-emphasized the use of peyote as a general means to achieve this end. Castaneda’s writing has been largely discredited as serious anthropological research and is generally considered to be allegorical fiction.

Erowid (2010) reported the oral dosages of peyote to range from 3 to 15 buttons with subjective effects increasing alongside the amount consumed. Erowid (2011) also noted that the effects last for 5 to 8 hours; users often describe the positive aspects of the peyote experience as bringing about “feelings of insight, brightening of colors, closed and open eye visuals, euphoria, and increased giggling and laughing.”

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:

Peyote users may potentially experience the following negative effects:

Deaths and Overdoses:



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