Peyote Addiction and Abuse, Statistics, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Peyote?

Peyote is a hallucinogenic drug that has was originally used in Native American tribal ceremonies for thousands of years to assist the user in a spiritual journey. Mescaline is the active ingredient in Peyote, and can lead to Peyote Addiction and Mescaline abuse. Peyote is a spineless cactus that grows in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The mescaline comes from the crown which is on top of the cactus. The crown consists of small disc shaped buttons which contains the mescaline. These buttons are removed from the cactus and dried. They are then eaten or brewed into a tea and then consumed. Peyote can be synthetically produced as well. A peyote trip can last for 12 hours. Peyote is well known for its use as a spiritual aid in the Native American culture. The mescaline in peyote can induce altered states of thinking, visual hallucinations, and synesthesia (the crossover of senses like hearing colors and seeing sounds). When peyote is being abused, the user’s sense of time is altered, reality is immensely warped, and an intense spiritual experience is often said to be experienced. Some of the slang names for peyote and mescaline are buttons, mesc, mescal, nubs, and tops.

Statistics on Peyote Addiction

Like addictive drugs, mescaline produces greater tolerance in some users who take the drug repeatedly. These users must take higher doses to achieve the same results as they have had in the past [1]. Evaluating addiction statistics for peyote and mescaline is difficult as most drug statistics are measured for addictive drugs, such as such as heroin, cocaine, alcohol, etc. The majority of drug and addiction studies exclude peyote and mescaline. Quite often, peyote and mescaline will be lumped in with other hallucinogens like LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms) and PCP. Therefore, the lasting psychological, mental and physical effects of mescaline continue to be inadequately understood. Some peyote and mescaline statistics are listed below:

  • A 2005 paper published in Biological Psychiatry found that “(Navajos not using peyote)…compared to Navajos with minimal substance use, the peyote group showed no significant deficits on the Rand Mental Health Inventory (RMHI) or any neuropsychological measures…”, and that they scored significantly better than non-users on the “general positive affect” and “psychological well-being” measures of the RMHI (RMHI is a standard instrument used to diagnose psychological problems and determine overall mental health). By contrast, alcohol abusers did significantly worse than the control group (non-users) in all measures of the RMHI [2].
  • The ‘Monitoring the Future Survey’ reported in 2008 that 7.8 percent of high school seniors had used hallucinogens other than LSD—a group that includes peyote, psilocybin, and others—at least once in their lifetime. Past-year use was reported to be 5.0 percent [3].

Causes of Peyote Addiction

Fortunately, peyote does not include the chemical properties to make it a physically addictive drug, nor does it promote brain damage after prolonged use. Peyote has a very low toxicity level, and the user will not exhibit withdrawal symptoms due to continued peyote abuse. A typical trip will last 7 to 12 hours. The tolerance level to peyote has a rapid build-up and it diminishes after a few days. Although peyote is not physically addictive, it can be psychologically addictive. The psychological addiction happens when the peyote user becomes addicted to the “spiritual journeys” that are taken, or they become addicted to the visual trips that are experienced. Peer pressure and curiosity are most often the reasons why people begin abusing peyote.

Signs of Peyote Use, Addiction and Dependence

Physical dependence to peyote will not occur, but psychological dependence can be developed. The individual using peyote can become addicted to the “trips” that are taken. These trips can be a “good trip” (where one enjoys the experience) or a “bad trip” (where one hates the experience). The trip depends on many various factors. Some of these factors are:

  • Physical environment
  • Sense of well being
  • Strength of dosage
  • State of mind
  • Prior experiences

The user can exhibit one or several of the following characteristics:

  • Euphoria
  • Changes in personality
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increase or loss of hunger
  • Increased heart rate
  • Distorted perceptions

Peyote Effects

Using and abusing peyote can create a number of negative outcomes. There are penalties for both short term and long term use which produce emotional and physical side effect. There are minimal physical consequences of using peyote, but it can, at times, be dangerous. The psychological side effect can be extremely intense and dangerous. People have often used the drug as a spiritual aide, used it in a vision quest, or used it experience the vibrant colors and melting shapes. The user can find help for this at a peyote treatment center. A typical trip will last about seven to twelve hours. Someone abusing peyote may exhibit some of these physical signs which include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chemically induced type of mental illness
  • Stomach pain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of appetite

Abusing peyote also produces numerous psychological side effects as well. Prolonged use of peyote can cause short-term memory loss, distortions in perception of reality and hallucinations. Other psychological side effects include:

  • Pleasant emotions
  • Flashbacks
  • Unpleasant emotions
  • Objects appear to breath
  • Schizophrenia
  • Emotional swings
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Several of these experiences vacillate and change during the entire peyote trip. A few of the more severe side results can persist even after the peyote user has stopped using the drug. Normally, these side effects will subside soon after the drug effects have worn off.

The results of abusing peyote often result in other outcomes that surpass the psychological and physical. You will discover relational consequences also. Peyote addiction can cause relationships to be ruined and logically, the loss of the user’s family. The dependency on mescaline could result in a loss of monetary resources and the loss of a job. The user can even end up in jail.

Peyote Withdrawal

Peyote does not have any known symptoms of addiction, but the mental symptoms are genuine. Since there is no risk of physical dependence, there is no documented evidence of withdrawal symptoms. However, “flashbacks” can be experienced due to prolonged exposure to peyote. The peyote abuser may experiences a flashback or “trip” after the drug effects have worn off. Someone who abuses peyote can have a flashback days, months or years after using the drug. These flashback trips can be triggered by stress, sleepiness, or other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana.

Peyote Addiction Treatment

The peyote addiction treatment is unlike the treatments provided for other physically addictive drugs. Although peyote is not addictive, it can be habit forming. The focus for peyote rehab is on the psychological dependency. A psychological addiction is caused when a man or woman believe that they have to have the drug to function normally, but it does not create any negative physical reactions. For a person on a peyote trip , the best treatment is to keep them peaceful and stress free. Once the user begins a trip, the person has to continue the trip until the peyote has worn off. Peyote does not have an antidote to neutralize the effects. Someone who abuses peyote, should get help from a peyote treatment center. There are several kinds of peyote rehab and several different approaches. A peyote treatment center that is effective may use several different treatment modalities to create a personal peyote treatment program. Treatment for peyote abuse take a holistic approach including behavioral therapy, support programs and intensive treatment therapies. The peyote treatment should be personalized for the user and include after treatment support. The success of overcoming peyote abuse will depend on the peyote rehab center, friends and family, the treatment therapist, but most of all, the user acknowledging there is a problem with peyote abuse and asking for help.


[1]: Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) –

[2]: Rand Health –

[3]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Substance Abuse Resources