Peyote comes from a spineless cactus plant that grows small, button-like protrusions. These “buttons” contain mescaline, the main hallucinogenic agent found in peyote.
According to the University of Maryland, peyote exists as the oldest known psychedelic agent, first used by Aztecs of Pre-Columbian Mexico as part of their religious ceremonies. Today, people use peyote to experience the hallucinogenic effects of the drug.
Unlike other types of hallucinogens, the presence of mescaline makes for a combined stimulant-hallucinogenic experience when using peyote. Likewise, peyote side effects can differ from other hallucinogens like LSD and mushrooms.
Peyote side effects range from adverse physical reactions to distressing psychological effects. Hallucinogens, in general, are known for their unpredictable effects no matter how long a person has used the drug. Peyote side effects follow suit in terms of the types of experiences users can have.
Physical Peyote Side Effects
Peyote’s mescaline component has a similar chemical structure to the dopamine and norepinephrine, two primary neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. This similarity enables peyote to interfere with essential brain chemical processes.
Peyote’s effects on the brain’s chemical system naturally translate over to the body’s central nervous system functions. Since mescaline acts as both a stimulant and hallucinogen, it speeds up the body’s central nervous system processes while altering the brain’s cognitive and emotional functions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, physical peyote side effects result from the drug’s effects on the central nervous system. Side effects experienced include:
- Chills, shivering
- Elevated heart and blood pressure levels
- Hot flashes, sweating
- Loss of appetite
The severity of side effects experienced reflects the degree of interference peyote has on overall brain function.
Psychological Peyote Side Effects
Peyote’s ability to distort the mind’s perception of reality is its most sought after effect for regular users. During a peyote high, users can see and hear things that aren’t real. According to Columbia Health, a high experience can last for up to 12 hours with peak experiences occurring at the four-hour mark.
To an observer, psychological side effects may appear strange and even frightening as users interact with figments of their imagination. As with most any hallucinogenic drug, users can have “bad trips” as well as “good trips” at any given time. The type of trip experienced plays into the types of side effects a person has.
Psychological peyote side effects include:
- Warped sense of space and time
- Exhilaration, euphoria
- Paranoia, terror, panic
- Warped sense of reality, such as confusing past and present events
- Inability to maintain attention or focus
Hallucinogens, in general, carry a fairly low risk of abuse and addiction compared to other types of drugs. However, frequent use of peyote can increase the risk for addiction. In effect, exposing the brain to peyote’s side effects on a regular basis predisposes a person to dependency.
Addiction stems from the psychological dependence the mind has on a drug’s effects. Once a person comes to believe he or she needs peyote’s effects to cope with daily life, a psychological dependence is at work.
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