Updated on May 18, 2024
4 min read

Peyote Statistics on Usage and its Legal Status

Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small, spineless cactus containing a hallucinogenic substance called mescaline. It has a rich history among Native American communities for religious and medicinal purposes.

Archaeological evidence suggests that native North Americans have likely used peyote since at least 5,500 years ago. In this article, we’ll explore the latest statistics on peyote use. This will include peyote’s cultural significance, conservation status, recreational use, and ritualistic use.

Noteworthy Peyote Statistics

  • The Native American Church claimed about 225,000 adherents in 1977, indicating the widespread practice and cultural significance of peyote use among Native American populations for religious and spiritual purposes.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed peyote as "Vulnerable," recognizing it as vulnerable to threats that could lead to its decline, despite not being considered extinct or critically endangered.
  • Ritualistic use of peyote among Native American communities is more prevalent and culturally significant compared to recreational use, with around 10% of Native American youth and adults using peyote for spiritual purposes.
  • Recreational use among the general population is estimated at 1-2%.

Peyote Facts

The peyote cactus is native to the deserts of the Southwest U.S. and Mexico. It contains mescaline, a substance known to cause hallucinations and change how you perceive the world. A peyote trip can last for 10 to 12 hours.

Peyote has a unique look⁠—small, round, and covered in button-like bumps. In the US, it's tightly controlled by the government as a Schedule I controlled substance due to its powerful effects. However, there's an exception for its use in certain religious ceremonies.

Is Peyote Addictive?

Peyote isn't like heroin and other hallucinogens⁠— it won't make your body crave it if you stop. But that doesn't mean it's harmless.

People can get hooked on the way peyote makes them feel, which is a whole different kind of addiction. Also, the more you use peyote, the less effect it has, so people might start taking bigger and bigger doses.

Cultural Significance and Peyote Use

Peyote is considered a sacrament in the Native American Church, and its religious use is protected under U.S. law. The consumption of peyote is often accompanied by fasting and prayer, which are believed to purify the mind, body, and spirit.

Peyote’s cultural significance can be seen in various statistics and observations. These show peyote’s historical, religious, and communal importance among Native American communities.

  • Indigenous peoples in Mexico and the United States have consumed peyote for millennia, with efforts by Native American communities to preserve the legitimacy of peyote use as a religious and therapeutic practice, despite widespread efforts to criminalize and demonize it.
  • Studies have found no evidence of psychological or cognitive deficits among Native Americans using peyote regularly in a religious setting, challenging the stigma associated with peyote use and supporting its role in traditional religious practices.
  • The threat to peyote's accessibility due to conservation concerns underscores the challenges faced by Native communities in maintaining their cultural and religious practices.

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Conservation Status of Peyote

Conservation of peyote is a concern due to overharvesting and habitat loss, prompting efforts to protect it. There are also regulations for peyote cultivation and distribution to protect its natural populations.

  • Peyote is legally protected in Mexico under the national list of species at risk of extinction, NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, where it is categorized as "subject to special protection."
  • In the United States, peyote is not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but in South Texas, it has been over-harvested to the point that the state has listed it as an endangered species.
  • Peyote and other cacti are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Appendix II, which controls trade for vulnerable species to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

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Recreational vs. Ritualistic Use of Peyote

The recreational and ritualistic use of peyote varies significantly, with ritualistic use being more prevalent among specific cultural and religious groups. This indicates a higher prevalence of ritualistic use in Native American communities than recreational use among the general population.

  • Around 10% of Native American youth and adults use peyote for spiritual purposes.
  • Less than 1% of adults aged 26 and older reported using a hallucinogen within the past year.
peyote chart 1

Legal Restrictions on Peyote

Back in 1970, peyote was lumped in with other psychedelics and made illegal through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. But thanks to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments in 1994, Native Americans can now legally use it in their religious ceremonies.

This was a big win for protecting the traditions of many tribes who consider peyote sacred. However, if you want to use peyote recreationally, that's still against the law in many places.

How Do Legal Restrictions Affect Peyote Conservation?

Legal restrictions on peyote overlap with concerns over its conservation. It's a slow-growing desert plant, and some worry that overuse could hurt its populations.

Canada is trying a different approach⁠—they allow peyote to be grown and sold legally. The idea is to ensure enough for religious use and research while protecting wild peyote.

Native Americans have special legal rights to use peyote in their ceremonies. For everyone else, it’s mostly illegal, with harsh penalties in some states. Peyote likely won't get you physically hooked like some drugs, but you can become psychologically dependent.

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Updated on May 18, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on May 18, 2024

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