What Is Peyote?

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Peyote, a small cactus with button-like shapes, is found in Mexico and the southern United States. The peyote plant contains powerful substances like mescaline, which give it hallucinogenic properties.

Historically, peyote has been important in the spiritual and ritual practices of Native Americans. Nowadays, it’s also used for recreational purposes by some people. There’s ongoing research into peyote’s possible benefits, although this research is still at an early stage. Both peyote and mescaline pose certain risks and consuming the cactus can lead to side effects for some individuals.

This guide addresses issues that include:

  • What is peyote?
  • What is peyote like?
  • Is peyote addictive?

 Where Does Peyote Come From?

The peyote cactus, known scientifically as Lophophora williamsii is a small, spineless cactus that thrives primarily in Mexico and the southern regions of the United States.

For thousands of years, Native Americans have recognized and utilized the hallucinogenic properties of peyote, which continues to be revered in their cultures. Currently, more than 40 tribes across North America and Western Canada incorporate it into their sacred religious rituals.

Despite DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) classifying peyote as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating a high abuse potential and no accepted medical utility, exemptions exist. The Native American Church, for instance, is permitted to use peyote in its religious ceremonies, regardless of this classification.

For some people, engaging with the peyote plant is considered a deeply spiritual act or religious sacrament. The practices surrounding its use vary by tribe and can include meditation, chanting, and various purification rituals.

The journey to obtain peyote, often referred to as the hunt, is an integral part of the ritualistic experience. Historically, some Native Americans would trek as far as 200 miles on foot to gather peyote.

Since peyote was scientifically documented in the early 20th century, its use has broadened beyond traditional contexts. Today, a wider demographic use the plant or its mescaline extracts for recreational purposes.

How Is Peyote Used?

Consuming peyote in its entirety or its active component, mescaline, triggers the plant’s renowned psychedelic effects.

Effects of peyote occur because mescaline acts on the 5-HT2A receptors in the brain, which are involved in serotonin regulation. These receptors are also the focus of other well-known hallucinogens like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, playing a role in the psychedelic experience that these substances induce.

Mescaline can be ingested in various forms. Common methods include:

  • Eating the dried tops of the peyote cactus.
  • Brewing the cactus into tea.
  • Taking capsules filled with peyote or mescaline powder.

Synthetic versions of mescaline are also available, usually in capsule form.

Determining a precise dosage can be challenging, as the strength of the peyote cactus can vary significantly.

After consumption, mescaline is quickly absorbed by the body. The psychedelic effects can start in less than an hour and a person may remain high on peyote for up to 12 hours. These effects gradually diminish as the body metabolizes the mescaline.

Is Peyote Addictive?

There’s not much research on addiction to peyote. That said, NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that mescaline, similar to other hallucinogens, typically doesn’t lead to drug-seeking behavior, even with repeated use.

Despite this, it’s still possible for a person to build up a tolerance to some hallucinogenic drugs if they use them frequently. Taking larger doses of substances that have unpredictable and varied effects increases the risks involved.

Peyote Side Effects

Mescaline operates by enhancing the binding of serotonin and dopamine to brain receptors. These neurotransmitters are linked to feelings of happiness and elation and can lead to psychedelic effects in high amounts.

The mental effects of mescaline are characterized by intense hallucinations. People often report synesthetic experiences, such as “seeing” music or “hearing” colors, along with visions and altered perceptions of space and time, where colors seem more vivid, sounds clearer, and visual perception is heightened.

The emotional impact can range from deep joy to intense fear, provoking dramatic emotional swings. Much like LSD, peyote can result in a bad trip, where the experience is overwhelmingly negative.

Physical effects of peyote may include tension and numbness alongside increased blood pressure, and heart rate. Additional side effects may include elevated body temperature, nausea, chills, sweating, and shivering.

Indigenous communities in the Americas have long attributed medicinal properties to peyote, using it to treat ailments from toothaches to diabetes.

In contemporary medicine, while psychedelics are being explored as potential treatments for conditions like treatment-resistant depression, research into their efficacy for other conditions is still limited.

The long-term impact of peyote use remains largely unknown. NIDA report that there is no evidence linking prolonged peyote use to psychological or cognitive impairments. Some people who use the drug regularly might experience flashbacks, though.

Similar to other psychedelic substances, a comedown phase may occur as the effects of the drug diminish, during which a person might experience lower or fluctuating moods.


What is peyote drug?

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus known for its psychoactive alkaloids like mescaline. It has been used for centuries by Native Americans in religious ceremonies and rituals for its hallucinogenic effects.

What kind of drug is peyote?

Peyote is classified as a hallucinogen, a type of drug that triggers profound changes in perception, mood, and thought. The active ingredient, mescaline, causes these effects by influencing serotonin levels in the brain.

Is peyote dangerous?

While peyote can induce intense hallucinogenic experiences, its physical toxicity is relatively low. That said, it may lead to psychological distress and it may inflame preexisting mental health issues in some people.

Get Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Recovery

Whether you have been using gateway drugs like peyote or you have developed a full-blown addiction, you can access evidence-based treatments at Ohio Recovery.

Not everyone needs residential rehab, and not everyone can take a month or more away from their commitments. At Ohio Recovery, we treat peyote addiction in an outpatient setting, providing a flexible and affordable pathway for anyone looking to address substance use issues.

Our treatment programs deliver a blend of pharmacological, behavioral, motivational, and holistic therapies, coupled with a firm aftercare component. Call 877-679-2132 for highly effective peyote addiction treatment.

Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn