What Peyote Is, By Definition
Here’s everything you need to know about this ancient, and often misunderstood cactus.
Peyote is a small, low-lying cactus that grows wild throughout the Southwestern United States and Mexico, as well as parts of Central America during healing ceremonies. For centuries native peoples throughout North and South America have used it, Historians have confirmed that peyote was used by the Aztecs and other pre-Columbian cultures “for magical, therapeutic, and religious purposes.”
Peyote contains mescaline, a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class. It’s the same chemical found in chocolate, however, hallucinogenic effects that users report are similar to those experienced while on LSD or psilocybin.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, peyote use can cause a rapid increase in both body temperature and heart rate. Users might also experience flushing, profound sweating, and a lack of physical co-ordination (known as ataxia), which in turn can lead to risk-taking and self-destructive behaviors that can result in injury or death.
How Peyote Is Used
Typically the bitter, tough ‘buttons’ of the peyote cactus are cut and dried, then the active ingredients are extracted through being chewed or soaked in water, however, some users report using peyote in other forms as well.
Alternative ways to use peyote include grinding the peyote cactus into a snuff-like substance to be snorted; creating rectal enemas out of peyote-infused water; and even inserting fine, dried peyote powder vaginally.
The dried peyote buttons can also be dried and ground into a fine powder that is mixed with tobacco or cannabis to be smoked; this method of ingestion is common during cultural events such as Native American religious ceremonies.
In 1918, The Native American Church was founded in order to protect the rights of Native Americans in response to multiple attempts by the federal government to restrict the use of peyote.
Under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act peyote is considered a Schedule 1 drug, which means that recreational use of Peyote is prohibited under U.S. federal law. Drugs in this class include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and are believed to have a high potential for abuse.
In 1996, Congress acknowledged the fact that Peyote use is an important part of cultural traditions for many American Indians, and as such:
“the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposed in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any State”.
Peyote use can lead to a psychological addiction among people who crave the hallucinogenic effects.
Over time, regular peyote users can develop a tolerance to the mescaline in the peyote cactus, but peyote itself is not physically addictive – that means that users do not experience any type of physical detox symptoms when they quit.
Like with all hallucinogens, it’s possible to overdose on peyote, however, a peyote overdose is rarely fatal.
The real danger of peyote comes from how a user responds to the visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations they may experience.
When a peyote user has a ‘bad trip’, they could act in ways that places them at risk of serious injury or even death. In fact, there are a number of stories about tourists to Mexico taking peyote as a recreational drug engaging in bizarre behaviors like “trying to bite off his own arm”.
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