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Peyote is a small cactus that has been used for centuries for a number of herbal remedies and rituals. Its many uses include treating skin wounds, snakebites, and fractures. Historically, it has also been used in religious rituals to induce visions or connect people with a spiritual entity.

Peyote is also used as a recreational drug because it is a hallucinogen. It contains a chemical called mescaline, which produces effects similar to those of LSD, although the effects of peyote are less powerful. Peyote can be ingested by chewing on pieces of the cactus itself, injected intravenously with psychoactive liquid made by soaking the cactus in water, or it can be smoked or swallowed after being ground into a powder. It is often smoked with marijuana or tobacco.

The active hallucinogenic ingredient, mescaline, can also be made synthetically. Peyote is also known on the street as cactus, mesc, or buttons.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has deemed peyote a schedule I drug, meaning it is both unsafe and illegal, and should not be used under any circumstances. Peyote has a high potential for abuse. Although there is no evidence that suggests that peyote can cause physical addiction, it can be psychologically addicting because of the state of mind achieved during the hallucinations.

Peyote works by disrupting the neurotransmitter transmissions that affect mood, thought, and perception. The effects on the brain result in:

The physical effects of peyote abuse include:

Peyote is a long-acting drug, with effects starting as soon as 20 minutes after ingestion and lasting up to 12 or 13 hours. A person’s experience while on peyote is highly unpredictable. For some it may result in enjoyable sensations, while others will have a bad experience.

As stated above, the hallucinations can become psychologically addictive, causing a person to use peyote more and more frequently. Peyote abuse often results in the brain developing tolerance, and needs more of it in order to achieve the desired effects. Peyote itself is rarely fatal; however, the hallucinations it causes can result in homicidal, psychotic, or suicidal actions.

Related: Psychological Dependence


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