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Peyote Abuse Facts

Updated 27 October 2022 Written by Deborah QuinnClinically Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher, LPC, LAC
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What is Peyote?

Peyote is a small cactus that can be found growing naturally in the southwestern US. The psychoactive agent that makes this cactus so well-known is mescaline. The top of the cactus has circular-shaped “buttons” that are cut off and ingested by chewing, smoking or soaking in water to produce a liquid.

The buttons can also be ground into a fine powder and put into capsules; after the mescaline is consumed, its hallucinogenic effects start to emerge.

The original uses of peyote are believed to go back as far as 20,000 years by some indigenous populations. Native American tribes used the substance for religious ceremonies as well as some medicinal purposes. Although not medically confirmed, the indigenous belief is that peyote is beneficial for pain during childbirth, fever, joint pain, and skin wounds.

As a ceremonious instrument, the US government does not have a ban on peyote used within the Native American Church; however, someone who is using it recreationally, outside the church, would be doing so illegally.

Due to peyote being a cactus and something grown naturally, mixed with the knowledge of a culture that uses it legally, teens and young adults often feel that it must be a safe substance. However, this is not the case.

Effects of Peyote

Peyote’s hallucinogenic effects are similar to those of LSD or psychedelic mushrooms.  There is no guarantee that someone will experience certain effects consistently each time, with a large degree of variance possible depending on the current mood of the user and the quality of the drug. Some of the general effects that can be expected are listed below.

Risks of Mescaline Use

Unfortunately very little is known about the long-term effects of peyote on the brain. What we do know is that, as with other hallucinogens, there is a possibility of developing persistent psychosis. This condition is characterized by symptoms of continuing mood swings, visual disturbances, paranoia and disorganized thought long after the substance has been ingested.

Even though peyote may not be addicting in the same way other drugs like heroin or nicotine are, one of its main risks is a developed tolerance. This requires users to ingest larger amounts to achieve the same effects. With larger amounts ingested, the risk of having negative effects and long-term psychological impact increases.

How Teens and Young Adults Use Peyote

There are three major methods of peyote ingestion used by teens and young adults. The psychoactive “buttons” are commonly brewed in tea, dried out and eaten raw, or ground it into a power and put it in a capsule to be swallowed.  As a hallucinogen, peyote is commonly used in large group settings such as raves or music festivals. Street names for peyote include britton, buttons, half moon, hikori, nubs, P, seni and tops.

Warning Signs of Peyote Misuse

As stated above, peyote is not physically addicting but still can cause serious health concerns.  Someone under the influence might experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Altered sensory experiences
  • Observable anxiety (trembling, rapid breathing, etc.)

A way of knowing if your child or loved one is struggling with some hallucinogen abuse is to look for signs like giving up on activities they used to enjoy, failing to maintain responsibilities or employment, using the drug in harmful situations such as driving and mentioning that they’re experiencing the effects often.

What to do if Your Child is Using Peyote

If you believe your child might be struggling with drug abuse or a co-occurring disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Our trained and experienced professionals can help answer any questions you might have and inform you of available treatment options. Call us at (888) 850-1890.

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