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Peyote Addiction and Abuse

Recreational use and abuse of the peyote cactus, and its primary hallucinogenic substance mescaline, though not associated with significant physical dependence or other health complications, can result in some dangers to the user. Additionally, the consistent use of hallucinogens like mescaline may be part of a larger pattern of problematic substance use, potentially involving more risky substances. Understanding the effects of the drug and risks involved in its use are the first step toward getting help.

Is Peyote Addictive?

Peyote is a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.1,2. So does peyote have the potential to be addictive?

People who use peyote may develop tolerance to the drug. Tolerance to peyote is different than with other drugs more commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction. Typically, people who develop a tolerance to a drug will take increasingly larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same desired results they once did. Drug tolerance usually develops with regular drug use over time and can lead a person to develop drug dependence and, ultimately, addiction.3,4

LSD users don’t typically develop the compulsive, drug-seeking behaviors that characterize addiction.1,4 Although LSD is not considered physically addictive, frequent use can put people at greater risk for bad trips, dangerous situations, encounters with law enforcement, and health complications. Just because the drug isn’t considered addictive in the traditional sense shouldn’t stop you from seeking help for yourself or a loved one for whom LSD has become a problem.

What is Peyote?

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus that grows in the desert of Mexico south of the Texas border.5 It contains the alkaloid mescaline, which is the principal hallucinogenic chemical responsible for the plant’s mind-altering effects. It is commonly found in disk-shaped buttons or capsules.1

Common street names for peyote include:1

  • Buttons.
  • Cactus.
  • Mesc.
  • Peyoto.

Illicit use of peyote for recreational purposes also occurs; however, it is not as widely used as other hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. This could be due to the restricted availability of peyote in addition to the fact that its bitter taste frequently induces vomiting in users.

What is Peyote Addiction?

Drug addiction is the continued, compulsive use of drugs, including hallucinogenic drugs like peyote, despite serious negative consequences, such as health, work, school, and relationship problems. Addiction is a treatable medical illness that affects the brain and changes behaviors such as self-control.6

Several drugs are grouped under the hallucinogen category, including peyote. Hallucinogen and dissociative drug use in the United States is a public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 6.0 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused hallucinogens in the past year—more than 6 million people struggled with the compulsive use of hallucinogens including peyote.7

While peyote does not appear to be associated with physical dependence, a person can certainly use peyote compulsively despite the negative consequences, which is the hallmark of addiction.

Signs and symptoms of such a substance use disorder (SUD) include:8

  • Taking a hallucinogen like peyote more often or in higher amounts than intended.
  • Wanting to stop using but not succeeding.
  • Spending a lot of time getting hallucinogens, using them, or recovering from them.
  • Craving or strongly desiring hallucinogens.
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work because of hallucinogens.
  • Continuing to use hallucinogens despite relationship conflicts that are created or worsened by use.
  • Giving up important activities (social, professional, or recreational) to use hallucinogens.
  • Using hallucinogens when doing so could be hazardous, such as prior to operating machinery.
  • Continuing hallucinogen use despite knowing that it causes or worsens physical or mental health problems.
  • Needing to take more and more to get the desired effects (tolerance).

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Peyote Addiction?

The chemical structure of mescaline is similar to that of dopamine and norepinephrine—neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with mood, pleasure, and reward.3

The effects of mescaline and peyote vary widely from person to person, but they typically produce sensory, cognitive, and emotional experiences that may elicit a spiritual sensation. On average, the peak high for peyote occurs within 2 to 4 hours after ingesting the plant, and the effects taper over the following 4 to 6 hours.3

Hallucinogenic effects can include:2

  • Heightened sensory experiences (e.g., brighter colors, sharper hearing, or visual clarity).
  • Mixed senses (e.g., “seeing music” or “hearing colors”).
  • Vivid mental images.
  • Dissociation, or loss of sense with reality.
  • Altered perception of time and space.
  • Feelings of detachment from self and greater environment.
  • Extreme moods or emotions, such as overwhelming joy and exhilaration, or panic and terror.

Physical side effects of peyote usage may include:2

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Chills and shivering.
  • Fever and sweating.
  • Muscle twitching or weakness.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

What are the Health Risks of Peyote Abuse?

The physical side effects of peyote can range from uncomfortable to potentially dangerous, depending on the health and medical history of the user. Some of the more worrisome effects include:1,3,4,9

  • Excessive vomiting. (When prolonged and forceful enough, it could potentially result in tears and bleeding in the esophagus.)
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Fever.
  • Dizziness.
  • Impaired muscle coordination.

One of the greatest risks associated with peyote use is the potential for an adverse experience, known as a “bad trip.” The hallucinations caused by peyote can sometimes provoke highly adverse psychological responses, including feelings of terror, paranoia, panic, anxiety, or depression. Users experiencing a bad trip may be at increased risk of suicide, self-harm, or accidental physical injury. A bad trip can also exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues in the user.1,3,4,9

A person under the influence of peyote may act strangely or disorderly in public, which could result in legal or law enforcement entanglement. The dizziness and incoordination caused by the drug also puts the user at risk of injury due to accident, especially if they decide to drive a car. Another noted risk is the potential for hazardous interactions between peyote and other substances, especially alcohol.

About 4.2% of people who use hallucinogens experience flashbacks at some point in their lifetimes. One long-term risk associated with peyote and other hallucinogens is the development of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This entails re-experiencing one or more perceptual symptoms of the hallucination when sober, also known as a “flashback.”8 About 4.2% of people who use hallucinogens experience flashbacks at some point in their lifetimes, though it is mostly associated with LSD use.8

Checking Your Insurance Benefits

If you are looking for peyote addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming. As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , or verify your insurance online.

How Do I Get Help for Peyote Addiction?

While it can be difficult to overcome an addiction to hallucinogens it can be effectively managed.10,11 There is not one type of facility or program that is suitable for everyone.10 Addiction treatment should address both your substance abuse and the various ways it has negatively impacted your life, including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.10,11

There are various types of treatment options available to address the wide range of needs that people experience.12 Programs typically provide an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs. They often use a combination of different techniques to address your addiction and how it has affected you.12

These can include:10-12

  • Residential treatment, where you live at a facility, and receive care and/or support around the clock. This is a structured setting with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions.
  • Inpatient treatment typically involves a shorter stay at a facility—often around 4 weeks —with around-the-clock monitoring and care, intense group therapy, and individual counseling.
  • Outpatient treatment offers less intensive group and individual counseling while you live at home. This type of care allows you to work, attend school, and participate in daily life while learning how to adjust to stressors and receiving the support of peers and staff.
  • Behavioral therapy in a group, individual, and/or family settings is highly effective for treating addiction to hallucinogens, dissociative drugs, and other substances. These techniques can help you learn how to stay sober, improve your relationships with others, cope with stress in healthy ways, and participate in positive activities.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders, which addresses mental health disorders at the same time as a substance use disorder, is generally more effective than treating these issues separately. Therapy, medications, and other supportive services are commonly utilized in this type of treatment.

If you are seeking peyote treatment in the United States, you have a wide array of options including private rehab facilities, state-run treatment facilities, and local treatment programs.

There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bond, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.

Where Can I Learn More about Treating Peyote Addiction?

For more information about peyote abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for peyote abuse treatment.

There are various treatment programs and strategies available for peyote addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs.

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