Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

Peyote Statistics

Peyote has a long and mysterious history. Its use among Native American cultures dates back centuries, yet modern attitudes toward the cactus remain controversial. 

This article will examine the facts and statistics behind peyote, some common myths, controversies, and more. 

What is Peyote?

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus native to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It contains the psychoactive alkaloid mescaline, used for centuries by many Native North Americans as part of religious and healing rituals.

Over time, peyote's reputation has become somewhat controversial. Some claim it's filled with spiritual power, while others view its use as dangerous or illegal. 

Peyote Use Facts

  • Despite its classification as a Class I controlled substance, over 300,000 members of the Native Americans Church are legally allowed to consume peyote cactus as a religious sacrament during nocturnal worship.6
  • The peak psychedelic experience from the peyote cactus can be reached within two hours of ingestion, with psychedelic effects possibly extending up to 8 hours.6
  • The hallucinogen mescaline level found in peyote cactus is typically 0.4% when fresh and increases to 3 to 6% when dried.6
  • Mescaline and LSD share similar psychoactive effects, encompassing profound mystical sensations.6
  • Mescaline breaks down into multiple metabolites through metabolic processes. However, a significant amount of unchanged mescaline remains detectable in urine. This makes detecting peyote cactus abuse in a drug test relatively simple.6
  • There are no good controls for the actual dosage of mescaline, so the effective amount may vary significantly between doses. The typical dosage for peyote cactus consists of 6 to 12 dried plant buttons, approximately 20 to 30 grams.7
  • There are 50 psychoactive alkaloids in a peyote cactus, with mescaline being the primary psychedelic producer.7
  • The symptoms of peyote typically subside within 6 to 12 hours.7
  • The use of peyote cactus in larger doses can lead to slower heart rates, decreased blood pressure, and difficulty breathing.8 
  • Those under the influence of mescaline have a higher chance of experiencing altered perception, intense emotions, panic attacks, and anxiety.8
  • A survey conducted on 886,088 people has revealed that the use of peyote has remained stable at 1 to 2% among American Indians and the general US population.9

Effects of Peyote

The active ingredient in peyote is mescaline, an alkaloid that produces hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD and other psychedelics.1 Mescaline use produces:

  • Intense emotions
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Profound emotions
  • Heightened senses
  • Feelings of euphoria or enlightenment

In addition to its psychoactive effects, peyote has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy. Moreover, it has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.2

It’s important to note that there’s no standard for dosing, regardless if you collect the peyote buttons, grind and prep them yourself, buy them from a vendor, or get them from a Native American religious organization.

Because there is no standard for dosing, it's essential to understand that misuse or excessive consumption could lead to fatal peyote ingestion. 


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Potential Health Benefits of Peyote

Recent academic research highlights the potential of peyote to alleviate certain mental health problems despite being a controlled substance.10 The 2021 study discovered that mescaline in the USA was linked with improved symptoms of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Notably, those with a history of addiction reported a significant decline in drug and alcohol abuse after encountering mescaline. A 2013 study also found that people who have tried peyote/mescaline report lower rates of agoraphobia — anxiety caused by going outdoors.10

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Legal Status and Regulation of Peyote

In 1930, more than twelve states in the U.S. prohibited peyote use. In 1967, the federal government implemented the national prohibition of the peyote cactus. 

Despite being classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance, Native American tribes, and churches have been granted a limited exemption for authentic traditional rituals.4

All people practicing traditional Indian religious use, regardless of race, are also eligible for the exemption.

History of Peyote Use

Indigenous populations have used peyote for centuries for religious ceremonies and healing rituals. Native Americans in the southwestern United States and the native peoples in Northern Mexico claim to have used peyote since prehistoric times (1000 BCE).3

Spanish priest Bernardino de Sahagún documented the Aztecs' use of peyote and hallucinogenic mushrooms in 1560. Then, Spain’s naturalist, Hernandez, provided its first botanical description in 1638. Parke Davis and Company began manufacturing and distributing dried peyote buttons in 1887.

In 1903, Lumholtz documented the effectiveness of this plant in treating the following:4

  • Wounds
  • Snakebites
  • Fever
  • Arrow wounds
  • Burns
  • Rheumatism
  • Toothaches
  • Scorpion sting
  • Difficulties in walking

Peyote in Religious Contexts

Today, the use of peyote remains integral to religious ceremonies for many indigenous groups. The Native American Church (NAC) is one such faith, with members in the United States and Mexico.

NAC members believe that when they eat peyote, it helps them go through a unique experience. This experience during the Native American Church ceremonies includes talking to divine powers and changing how they think and act.5

Consuming peyote cactus also changes how they pay attention, listen, and notice things more easily. Consequently, this makes it easier for the Native American Church members to learn new things and change their lives.

Preparing and Taking Peyote

Peyote ingestion happens in various ways, such as brewing its crown into psychoactive tea or crushing peyote buttons into a fine powder.

Brewing peyote tea involves boiling the crown in water and straining it. Users then drink it as a psychoactive brew or as an extract. 

Others smoke or ingest the crushed fine powder for a more intense experience. Those who do usually put it in capsules and swallow them with water or another beverage.

Other Hallucinogens

Psilocybin mushrooms contain the active ingredient of the same name. They also produce hallucinations akin to mescaline.

Similarly, the South American brew Ayahuasca is made from a combination of psychoactive plants with DMT and other hallucinogens. Synthetic mescaline also exists, producing psychedelic effects nearly identical to peyote.

But while other hallucinogenic substances have effects similar to peyote, each has unique effects. Therefore, it's essential to understand their differences to make informed decisions about their use.

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Peyote Myths

#1: The "Natural" Mescaline Found in Peyote Cactus is Less Dangerous Than Synthetic Mescaline

Fact: Just because something's natural doesn't make it safe. Despite originating from natural sources, these psychoactive substances can still alter brain chemistry and have serious side effects.

Some hallucinogens have been known to cause persistent psychosis in some users. Their psychedelic effects can also be unpredictable.

#2: Peyote's Effects Can Last for Weeks

Fact: As mentioned, peyote's peak effects usually last less than 8 hours, and the hallucinogenic effects generally don't persist beyond 12 hours. However, its presence can linger in your system for quite some time.

Saliva tests can detect it for up to 10 days, while urine tests can identify it for up to 3 days. Hair follicle tests, on the other hand, can still uncover traces of it even after three months of use.

#3: You Can Buy Microdots of Mescaline

Fact: It's a common misconception that this substance can be found in small pills. However, you need more mescaline for an actual hallucinogenic trip. And while some may boast about acquiring a pill with mescaline, it's likely just LSD.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
10 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Beyer, J. “Herbal Psychoactive Substances.” Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, 2013.
  2. Raz, S. “Transforming psychedelics into mainstream medicines.” STAT News, 2020.
  3. Department of Justice. “Drug Fact Sheet: Peyote and Mescaline.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2020.
  4. Stork, C. M. “Peyote.” Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, 2023.
  5. Calabrese, J. D. “6 The Peyote Ceremony: Psychopharmacology, Ritual Process, and Experiences of Healing Get access Arrow.” Oxford University Press, 2013. 
  6. Dasgupta et al. “Challenges in Drugs of Abuse Testing” Clinical Chemistry, Immunology, and Laboratory Quality Control, 2014.
  7. Couper, F.J. “Substance Misuse: Miscellaneous Drugs” Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine (Second Edition), 2016.
  8. Slothower et al. “MescalineEncyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition), 2014.
  9. Dasgupta, A. “Abuse of Magic Mushroom, Peyote Cactus, LSD, Khat, and Volatiles” Critical Issues in Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse Testing (Second Edition), 2019.
  10. Agin-Liebes et al. “Naturalistic Use of Mescaline Is Associated with Self-Reported Psychiatric Improvements and Enduring Positive Life Changes.” Psychedelic Spotlight News, 2021.

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