A number of cacti are used for their hallucinogenic properties.
The most common is the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), found from central Mexico to southern Texas.
Peyote contains relatively large quantities (one to six per cent of the plant’s weight) of mescaline – a strong hallucinogen. Other cacti include the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi), from around the Andes, Doñana (Coryphantha macromeris) from northern Mexico and three related mescaline-bearing species from South America.
Hallucinogenic cacti are quite rare in the UK, though the peyote cactus can be bought mail order or directly from some cacti-specialists or head shops.
Hallucinogenic cacti are not illegal in the UK, unless prepared for consumption as a hallucinogen. This could include drying them, or cutting them into edible ‘buttons’. It usually takes six to ten of these buttons to gain the desired effect. The cacti’s effects are in some ways similar to LSD, but longer lasting and more physical. Users typically vomit before entering a dreamlike state where sound and scale distort and visions appear. The trip can last up to 12 hours with the user deep in trance and detached from the world around them.
The peyote experience is different from that of pure mescaline – the former being more intense and complex. This is due to the presence of many more alkaloids that affect mind and body such as hordenine, pellotine, anhalinine, anhalonine and tyramine. Some of these chemicals potentiate the effects of the mescaline, altering characteristics of the experience.
The hallucinogen mescaline is a class A drug in the UK. In the USA mescaline and the peyote cactus are Schedule 1. Members of the Native American Church are permitted the ritual use of peyote, though not mescaline