Pronunciation: MES-kuh-lin (also pronounced MES-kuh-leen) Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number: 54-04-6 Formal Names: 3, 4, 5-Trimethoxyphenethylamine
Informal Names: Beans, Big Chief, Blue Caps, Button, Cactus, Cactus Buttons, Cactus Head, Chief, Love Trip (combination with MDMA), Mesc, Mescal, Mes-calito, Mescap, Mese, Mezc, Moon, Musk, Peyote, Topi
Type: Hallucinogen. See page 25
Federal Schedule Listing: Schedule I (DEA no. 7381)
USA Availability: Illegal to possess
Pregnancy Category: None
Uses. This is the main active drug in the peyote cactus. In addition to being found in that natural product, mescaline can also be manufactured in a laboratory. Researchers have noted that mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin have similar actions even though the substances have significant chemical dissimilarities. Effects are so alike that volunteers who took the drugs in experiments could not tell which of the three they received. Studies indicate cross-tolerance exists among the three. Mescaline is related to amphetamine.
Mescaline has been used to study mechanisms of schizophrenia, and at one time the substance was used in experimental psychotherapy. The drug encouraged self-examination in patients and helped them to see significance in ordinary things they had barely noticed before. Such effects have also been described by persons who took the drug simply to find out what it is like. When mescaline was used as an experimental drug in psychotherapy, therapists reported that the substance helped people recall repressed memories. Debate existed, however, about whether the apparent memories were real and whether the recollection experience turned out to have therapeutic benefit. One experiment found that mescaline could help persons achieve creative answers to work-related problems that had resisted resolution for months. Research designed to measure whether the drug promotes creativity has found that volunteers' feelings of increased creativity were supported in general and as a group by higher test scores on elements of creativity. "In general" and "as a group" may be important qualifiers about the results, however.
Users have reported expansion of color perception, but a test designed to detect such a phenomenon produced mixed results. A rabbit study found that mescaline could relieve pain. In a human experiment mescaline promoted growth hormone levels. In rats appetite may increase.
Drawbacks. Individuals with a personal or family history of serious mental illness may be particularly vulnerable to lengthy psychosis from mescaline, although a study of former and current users of mescaline, LSD, or psilocybin found that they scored normally on psychological tests—with the exception that persons who engaged in current hallucinogen use were more depressed and nervous and prone to risk-taking.
Visual hallucinations during a mescaline dose are common; auditory ones less so. Aside from visual hallucinations, users not only may have trouble recognizing faces but may see startling transformations of their own faces in a mirror, viewing the image as not only something apart from themselves but as something ominous. People may feel like their bodies are changing in shape and be unable to detect portions of their bodies. Perceptions of time and space may also change. The drug intoxication typically begins with euphoria, but in a laboratory setting, the euphoria often converts to nervousness and suspicion, possibly ending in depression. Subjects have been known to say and do things they did not want to but were unable to stop themselves. Persons under the drug's influence may be very open to suggestions, a state that could be exploited by unscrupulous persons.
Research shows that the drug can cause headache, perspiration, hot or cold sensations, feelings of prickling or burning, dizziness, cramps, nausea, and vomiting accompanied by small increases in pulse rate and blood pressure. In a sufficient dose mescaline can impair breathing, increase body temperature, and lower pulse rate and blood pressure. Hearing may become so sensitive that ordinary noises are painful. Other senses may have abnormal reactions also.
Tests of reasoning and mental focus produce low scores while people use the drug. Mescaline-related deaths are usually not caused by the chemical itself but by things people did while their judgment was impaired. After rats receive mescaline they appear to forget how to navigate a maze and also take longer to solve problems (figuring out how to get past obstacles). The drug promotes fighting among rats; one group of researchers described the aggression as "robust." Debate exists about whether the drug makes rats fiercer or simply reduces inhibitions in stressful situations. Aggression and wild behavior are not seen as consequences of the drug among human users, and in some circumstances mescaline makes rats lethargic.
Dogs assume odd body stances after receiving the drug and act so lethargic as to be almost insensible. Monkeys seem fascinated as they look at ordinary objects, a reaction that may indicate visual hallucinations. Monkeys first act excitable after dosage, then lethargic. Rats, dogs, and monkeys all exhibit repetitive convulsivelike movements at high doses. In monkeys a fatal dose may not kill them until three or four days have passed.
Abuse factors. A rat experiment found evidence of tolerance, but investigators surmised that the rats might simply have been learning how to compensate for drug effects on performance as the experiment continued. Rather than dosage effectiveness declining, the effects may have been unchanging as rats pushed through them by strength of will. Investigators running a rabbit experiment reported tolerance. Evidence exists for tolerance in animals and humans who receive the drug daily, but such tolerance dissipates quickly once the drug is stopped; two or three days later a dose can produce the same level of effects as before. Dependence does not seem to occur.
Drug interactions. Not enough scientific information to report.
Cancer. Not enough scientific information to report.
Pregnancy. The drug will pass into the fetus of a pregnant monkey. In hamsters mescaline has caused birth defects and delayed development of bone structures, along with reducing the number of offspring in litters. Human birth defects are suspected.
Additional information. "Mescal" is both a nickname for mescaline and the name of an alcoholic beverage; they are different substances.
Additional scientific information may be found in:
Adlaf, E.M., et al. "Nonmedical Drug Use among Adolescent Students: Highlights from the 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey." CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 162 (2000): 1677-80. Hermle, L., et al. "Mescaline-Induced Psychopathological, Neuropsychological, and Neurometabolic Effects in Normal Subjects: Experimental Psychosis as a Tool for Psychiatric Research." Biological Psychiatry 32 (1992): 976-91. Hoch, P.H., J.P. Cattel, and H.H. Pennes. "Effects of Mescaline and Lysergic Acid (D-
LSD-25)." American Journal of Psychiatry 108 (1952): 579-84. Hollister, L.E., and A.M. Hartman. "Mescaline, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and Psi-locybin: Comparison of Clinical Syndromes, Effects on Color Perception and Biochemical Measures." Comprehensive Psychiatry 3 (1962): 235-42. Huxley, A. The Doors of Perception, and Heaven and Hell. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.
Kapadia, G.J., and M.B.E. Fayez. "Peyote Constituents: Chemistry, Biogenesis, and Biological Effects." Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 59 (1970): 1699-1727. Unger, S.M. "Mescaline, LSD, Psilocybin and Personality Change." Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes 26 (May 1963): 111-25.
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