Pronunciation: pay-OH-tih (also pronounced peh-YOH-teh) Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number: 11006-96-5 Formal Names: Lophophora williamsii
Informal Names: Bad Seed, Big Chief, Black Button, Britton, Buttons, Cactus, Cactus Head, Challote, Devil's Root, Dry Whiskey, Dumpling Cactus, Half Moon, Hikori, Hikuli, Hyatari, Mescal, Mescal Beans, Mescal Buttons, Mescalito, Mescy, Nubs, P, Pellote, Peyotl, Seni, Shaman, Tops
Type: Hallucinogen. See page 25
Federal Schedule Listing: Schedule I (DEA no. 7415)
USA Availability: Illegal to possess
Pregnancy Category: None
Uses. Peyote is part of a cactus plant. Native American folk medicine has used peyote cactus root for doctoring scalp afflictions. In folk medicine peyote has also been used against snake bite, influenza, and arthritis. Scientists have determined that peyote contains substances that might fight infections. Some Native Americans are reported to use light doses of peyote as a stimulant to maintain endurance when engaged in relentless activity permitting little nourishment or water, a practice sounding much like traditional use of coca. Spaniards observed such peyote usage in the Aztec empire.
Peyote's main active component is the hallucinogen mescaline. Some other varieties of cactus also contain mescaline, although generally in much smaller amounts. Researchers suspect the peyote cactus may additionally contain chemicals similar to those appearing in the brain upon use of alcohol.
In addition to causing hallucinations, peyote can change perception of time. Psychic effects can include feeling more peaceful and connected with life; cra-ziness of the everyday world can recede. People can use the experience to work through their concerns and may be more open to suggestions. Physical senses may seem enhanced, and barriers between them may melt, such as allowing sounds to be seen.
Normally a Schedule I substance is illegal to possess except under special permission to do research with it, but for many years members of the Native American Church were allowed to possess and use peyote (but not the pure drug mescaline) for religious purposes. During the 1990s their legal situation became confused, and the issue was a matter of controversy when this book was written.
The religion of Peyotism (of which the Native American Church is but one variety) is a topic beyond the scope of this book, but drug-induced visions are only one part of the practitioners' way of life. Observers have noted that Peyotism can be an effective way of dealing with addiction to alcohol and opiates. Traditional peyote use occurs in a group context, a social gathering of persons sharing and furthering the same beliefs and goals. A solitary user estranged from such a setting is likely to have a far different peyote experience. For instance, one element of a peyote session can be nervousness and fear, emotions that may have different impacts depending on whether a user is alone or is with a group of reassuring and supportive persons. A researcher with the Indian Health Service of the U.S. Public Health Service estimated that traditional peyote usage produced bad psychological experiences once in 70,000 doses, a safety record that the researcher attributed to the social context of traditional use. Physical damage has not been noted from traditional use.
Drawbacks. Chills, muscle tension, nausea, and vomiting are typical unwanted peyote effects.
Abuse factors. A study published in the 1950s concluded that peyote tolerance, dependence, and craving did not occur from traditional usage—a finding supported by other authorities as well. A canine experiment showed that tolerance to the vomiting effect occurred if dogs received daily peyote for a year.
Drug interactions. Not enough scientific information to report.
Cancer. Not enough scientific information to report.
Pregnancy. Peyote has caused birth defects in hamsters. A study comparing peyote users to nonusers from the same Indian group found no increase in chromosome damage among the users.
Additional information. Peyote is sometimes called "mescal," which is also the name of an alcoholic beverage. The two substances are different, and the beverage has no connection with peyote. Likewise "mescal beans" are an alternative peyote name and also the name of a nonhallucinogenic food.
Additional scientific information may be found in:
Bergman, R.L. "Navajo Peyote Use: Its Apparent Safety." American Journal of Psychiatry 128 (1971): 695-99.
Boyer, L.B., R.M. Boyer, and H.W. Basehart. "Shamanism and Peyote Use among the Apaches of the Mescalero Indian Reservation." In Hallucinogens and Shamanism, ed. M.J. Harner, 53-66. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Bruhn, J.G. "Mescaline Use for 5700 Years." Lancet 359 (2002): 1866. Ellis, H. "Mescal: A New Artificial Paradise." The Contemporary Review 71 (1897). Reprinted in Smithsonian Institution's Annual Report 1897. Washington, DC: Author, 1898. 537-48.
Huttlinger, K.W., and D. Tanner. "The Peyote Way: Implications for Culture Care Theory." Journal of Transcultural Nursing 5, no. 2 (1994): 5-11. Kapadia, G.J., and M.B.E. Fayez. "Peyote Constituents: Chemistry, Biogenesis, and Biological Effects." Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 59 (1970): 1699-1727. La Barre, W. "Peyotl and Mescaline." Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 11 (1979): 33-39.
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