Mescaline is the key hallucinogenic substance found in peyote and several other psychedelic plants, including the Trichocereus family of cacti. Mescaline belongs to a class of chemicals called phenethy-lamines. "Ecstasy" (MDMA) is another drug that belongs to this class. The chemical name of mescaline is 3,4,5-trimethoxy-beta-phenethylamine, and its chemical structure resembles that of other illegal drugs such as amphetamine as well as the brain's own neuro-transmitters epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (nora-drenaline) (see Figure 4.1).
Mescaline is not a very potent drug, as it takes approximately 200 to 500 mg of the chemical to produce any psychedelic effects. Compare this with the less than 1 mg of LSD it takes to produce psychedelic effects. Mescaline has about 1/2000th the potency of LSD and about 1/20th the potency of psilocybin, the main psychoactive chemical in "magic mushrooms." A peyote button contains only approximately 45 mg (or less) of mescaline (only about 1 to 3 percent of its actual dry weight), and so it is necessary to ingest 4 to 12 peyote buttons to have any type of psychological effect.
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