Mescaline is a psychedelic phenethylamine derived from several ancient species of cactus, which have been used ritualistically for thousands of years. It continues to be used for spiritual, religious and recreational purposes today.
Mescaline is thought to be one of the oldest psychedelics used by humans, evidence suggesting Native Americans in Mexico consumed it ceremonially over 5700 years ago. However, it wasn't until 1919 that it was first synthesised by Ernst Spath. Eight years later, an extensive study of mescaline's effects was published in 'Der Meskalunraush', meaning 'The Mesacline High.' Then, in 1952 Dr. Humphry Osmond began working with psychedelics at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Osmond was studying the similarities between Mescaline and the adrenaline molecule.
The following year, in 1953, Aldous Huxley consumed 400mg of mescaline under Dr. Osmond's direct supervision, recounting and publishing his first experience in the book The Doors of Perception in 1954. The Doors of Perception went on to catch the attention of many prominent psychedelic researchers and became one of the most referenced pieces of literature in the psychedelic community. The psychedelic rock band The Doors took its name from the title of the book. Among the many researchers who took notice of Huxley's work was Alexander Shulgin, who went on to test mescaline on himself in 1960 at a 350mg dose. This experience sparked an interest in phenethylamines that persisted for the rest of his career as a chemist.Detailed in Shulgin's Lab Notebook #4 on page 471.
In 1961, Shulgin proposed the 'mescaline unit' (ED mescaline divided by ED analog) as a measure of relative potency of mescaline analogs. In this calculation the effective dose represents the average of ED1 and ED100 (ED50 or 'median effective dose'). The 'mescaline-unit' (M.U.) was used in studies of many psychoactive compounds by many prominent chemical researchers, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense. However, it is no longer used.
On October 27 of 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was passed in the USA. Part II of this is the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which defines a scheduling system for drugs. Under this act, mescaline, along with LSD, psilocybin, psylocin, peyote, cannabis and MDA were all listed under Schedule I. In 1991, Alexander and Ann Shulgin first published their book called Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved, a collection of years' worth of work documenting in detail the synthesis and subjective effects of over 250 phenethylamines, including mescaline. This book is now widely considered to be one of the single most important pieces of literature in the history of pharmacology and chemistry. However, because it provided detailed information on the synthesis of hundreds of drugs, the book also led to their widespread clandestine production and distribution in the years following its release.
The drinking of teas made from mescaline containing cacti is one of the oldest known instances of psychedelic drug use. Europeans noted use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies upon early contact, notably by the Huichols in Mexico. Other mescaline-containing cacti such as the San Pedro have a long history of use in South America, from Peru to Ecuador.
Mescaline was used by Native American cultures for spiritual purposes and usually were either consumed dried or in a tea. The nausea and vomiting associated with consuming the cactus itself was thought to be an inherent as well as important part of the experience. It was considered to have a cleansing effect on the mind and body.
In the 60s, mescaline along with LSD and several other psychedelics were researched for the treatment of select mental illnesses, notably alcoholism and depression. In modern times, mescaline continues to be used recreationally - though is somewhat more uncommon than other psychedelics such as the 2C-X series, which are very similar in effects, presumably due to its relatively low potency and difficulty in production.
Note: Duration can be significantly longer with higher doses. Onset can vary, Avoid redosing.
|After Effects||3-5 Hours|
Note: The prevalence of negative effects increases with higher doses.
- Feelings of interconnectedness
- Spiritual events
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Music enhancement
- Altered thinking processes
- An altered sense of time and self-awareness
- Closed and open-eye visual phenomena
- Synesthesia (especially in conjunction with music)
- Peripheral stimulation
- Increased cardiovascular activity
- Increased Perspiration
- Unwanted spiritual experiences
- Intense feelings of dread and doom
(Note: Nausea and vomiting are extremely common with mescaline, particularly when consumed in the form of a cactus tea. Simple A/B extraction techniques can be applied to mescaline containing cacti. Both the literature and anecdotal evidence suggest that nausea is less common with the pure salts of mescaline.)
- As with all psychedelic drugs, mescaline carries within it the potential for a very powerful experience, and as such has the potential to result a very difficult experience ('bad' trip). Mindset and setting play important roles in governing the nature of a psychedelic experience, among other things.
See Psychedelic Harm Reduction for more information.
Due to the illicit nature of mescaline, little empirical data is available regarding its interaction profile. It's pharmacology however is fairly well understood and based on this it would not be advisable to mix mescaline with irreversible MAOIs and lithium. Always exercise extreme caution when mixing any medications or drugs that do not have well established interaction profiles.
There are a significant amount of anecdotal reports that involve mixing mescaline with reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (RIMAs) both as extracted salts and ayahuasca style brews from harmaline/harmine containing plants. Caution is advised if one intends to attempt this. It can result in a significant alteration of the intensity and character of a mescaline trip. Note: Tyramine is a biosynthetic precursor of mescaline in some species of mescaline containing cacti. Harmful interactions between tyramine and irreversible MAOIs (such as isocarboxazid) are well established in medical literature so combining mescaline with this particular class of MAOI is strongly discouraged.
See the Drug combinations chart for more information.
Chemistry and Pharmacology
3,4,5-Trimethoxybenzeneethanamine (also referred to as 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) or mescaline freebase, is a white crystalline odorless solid at room temperature. Its chemical formula is C11H17NO3 and it is soluble in alcohol, chloroform, benzene, xylene, toluene, acetone, dichloromethane, highly soluble in isopropyl alcohol, soluble in d-limonene and moderately soluble in water. It is practically insoluble in ether or petroleum ether and has melting/boiling points of 35-36°C and 180°C (12 mmHg) respectively. The freebase has a molecular weight of 211.26.
Note: Mescaline freebase will form mescaline carbonate upon prolonged exposure with air.
The hydrochloric salt of mescaline is the most common form by far. It has a melting point of 184° C according to the Merck Index. It has the appearance of needle-like clear/whitish crystals and is moderately soluble in water, alcohol, methanol. (at least 1.0 mg/ml) (Merck Index) In contrast to the freebase it is practically insoluble in toluene and acetone, insoluble in isopropyl alcohol, diethyl ether, and d-limonene. The hydrochloric salt has a molecular weight of 247.72. The second most common salt of mescaline seems to be the sulfate dihydrate. It also appears as a whitish crystaline solid, retaining the whitish color albeit somewhat brighter, but losing the needle like structure in favour of a more rock like appearance. It is soluble in hot water, methanol and insoluble in near freezing water, alcohol and acetone. The sulphate has a melting point of 183–186 °C and a molecular weight of 309.33606.
Many salts of mescaline are attainable and all have different physical properties and solubilty profiles. Here we cover the two most commonly explored salts. For some more information on the salts not covered here, check out the links section at the bottom of the page.
Mescaline shares structural similarities with Serotonin and Dopamine. Mescaline acts similarly to other psychedelics by binding to and activating the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor with low affinity and high efficacy. Mescaline is also known to bind to and activate the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor. Tolerance builds with repeated usage, lasting for a few days. Mescaline causes cross-tolerance with other serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD, psilocin and 2C-x compounds.
Some studies have concluded that mescaline goes through the body nearly unchanged. Six hours after dosing half of dose has been excreted and of between 20% and 50% of it is unchanged. The rest is the carboxylic acid, most likely degraded by MAO.
The LD50 is unknown in humans. In experiments with rats, the LD50 for mescaline has been established in the range of 800-1200mg/kg orally. See Mescaline MSDS via hazard.com Considering the human dose range is about 100-1000mg, it would be very difficult to consume enough Mescaline to kill a human. As such, there are no recorded human deaths from the ingestion of mescaline. With that said, caution is still advised when consuming high doses.
- In Australia, the peyote cacti and other mescaline-containing plants such as San Pedro are illegal in Western Australia, Queensland and the Norther Territory, whilst in other states such as Victoria and New South Wales, they are legal for ornamental and gardening purposes.
- In Canada, The Netherlands, and Germany, mescaline in raw form and dried mescaline-containing cacti are considered an illegal drug, however anyone may grow and use peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, along with Echinopsis Panchanoi and Echinopsis Peruviana without restriction, as it is specifically exempt from legislation. In Canada, mescaline is classified as a schedule III drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, whereas peyote is exempt.
- In the United Kingdom, mescaline in purified powder form is a Class A drug, however dried cactus can be bought and sold legally.
- In the United States, mescaline was made illegal in 1970 by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The drug was prohibited internationally by the * 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and is categorized as a Schedule I 'hallucinogen' by the CSA. Mescaline is legal only for certain groups (such as the Native American Church) and in scientific and medical research. The current state of the law is that while the federal government may not restrict use of peyote in ceremony, individual states do have a right to restrict its use/ Many states, including Utah have legalized peyote usage with 'sincere religious intent', or within a religious organization regardless of race.
- Mescaline: The Chemistry and Pharmacology of its Analogs
- Dr. Shulgin's Lab Notes
- PiHKAL Entry
- Erowid Entry
- Wikipedia Entry
- 'Relationship of the Structure of Mescaline and Seven Analogs to Toxicity and Behavior of Five Species of Labratory Animals' (full text)
- Physical and Chemical Properties of Various Mescaline Salts