In the modern age, drugs are classified according to their effects and side effects.
Some drugs are psychedelic, some are deliriant, and others have dissociative effects. Peyote plant or Lophophora williamsii is a spineless cactus plant whose parts or button-like protrusions on its surface contain an active principle called mescaline which is a potent hallucinogen. Its buttons are either chewed or made a liquid of which makes an ingestible drink.
It is a part of traditional and religious ceremonies of people of in Northern Mexico.
The Effects of Peyote
The chemical structure of mescaline resembles that of dopamine and norepinephrine and the drug acts on their receptors in the brain and produces effects by disturbing normal neurotransmitter activity. Its effects last for 1-2 hours and disappear after 10-12 hours.
So the side effects of peyote vary from person to person because it enhances all the perceptive abilities and provides cognitive and emotional experiences which according to the mental state of the person, the dose in which the drug was taken, environment and personality. The sequence of effects is as follows:
- After ingestion, the person feels nauseous initially. Then the mental effects kick in causing a change in perceptions and either elevation or depression of mood.
- Physical effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, numbness and weakness can appear during this time.
- The person is then taken to an alternative reality which can be pleasant or terrifying depending on the person’s personality.
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What are the negative effects of Peyote on the brain?
Possible negative effects that peyote has on the brain are:
- Distorted vision
- Altered perception of time and space
- Difficulty concentrating/ focusing on tasks and surroundings
- Adverse reactions to “bad trips” that may result in self-harm or other violent acts
Physical side effects of Peyote:
The physical side effects of peyote are:
- Fever (sweating and chills)
- Muscle twitching
- Dilation of pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
The hallucinations that these drug causes make the people feel as if they are taken to a whole new world, this journey is called a Peyote Trip. Certain tribes in Mexico and America celebrate religious ceremonies which include a part where people are given peyote buttons to chew on so that they feel spiritual and aesthetic enlightenment. People describe the experiences differently, some people say that they can feel, hear and see things a thousand times clearer than normal, some people experience traveling to the world where everything is made of rainbows, some people experience nightmarish visions which make them scream out loud. In religious ceremonies, everyone including the leader or shaman takes these trips during the peyote festival.
After the effects fade away people feel so week that they fall asleep or so high that they dance, it is called afterglow. The severity of the aftereffects depends upon the duration and intensity of the trip.
What happens during a peyote trip?
During a peyote trip, a person experiences distorted vision, intense hallucinations, and sometimes, forms of synesthesia such as the ability to see music or hear colors. People often describe being taken to an alternative reality which can be pleasant or terrifying depending on the person’s state of mind.
Side Effects of the Drug
The drug has certain useful effects on the body such as pain relief, although it is not allowed to be used medically, Mexican tribes still use its juice or buttons to relieve labor pain and pain after accidents. Its harmful effects on the body are mentioned below:
- It induces nausea, numbness, anxiety, muscle twitching, dilation of pupil
- During the time the person has increased heart rate and blood pressure which is dangerous if it lasts for too long or becomes too much.
- People can’t eat or sleep during the time they are under the influence. Appetite suppression results in weight loss in people who use the drug regularly.
- Body temperature rises and sometimes chills and sweating might be present with this problem.
Effects of Peyote on the Brain
- Peyote causes disturbances in neurotransmitter actions on the body.
- Cognitive impairment is the cause of many other problems, an under influence person might not be able to avoid dangers and accidents and might harm themselves without realizing.
- Vivid mental images and distorted vision, they suffer from synesthesia i.e. they have altered senses such as the ability to see music or hear colors.
- Unrealistic feelings of joy, exhilaration or depression, and despair. Mixing past with present and loss of sense of reality is a part of the effects.
- Difficulty focusing and processing the surroundings, they become so dysfunctional that they can not even speak properly. The person also has altered the perception of time and space.
- There are some really adverse reactions when there are bad trips, and people can use weapons or other dangerous objects to harm themselves to escape that trip.
- The person has difficulty thinking and concentrating on their job or tasks at hand.
- In short, it produces all the effects that dopamine and noradrenaline would produce at a greater dose, euphoria, excitation of the brain and altered mental status.
Long Term Side Effects:
The difference between peyote and other drugs is that other drugs are not harmless while there are no life threatening effects of peyote on the body in the long run. Its addiction potential is very low, and although heavy users might develop tolerance, addiction rarely follows. What is considered dangerous is a disorder called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder which causes people to experience flashbacks of the peyote trips long after the effects have worn out. They might be pleasant or frightening, either way, for a while a person loses their connection with reality, and this is extremely dangerous if the person involved in driving or cooking or doing some work in which he needs focus and attention. The worst effect of peyote is the severe anxiety which lasts for days if a very large dose of peyote is taken by the person. In people who are already suffering from some mental disorder they might suffer from psychotic or schizophrenic mental symptoms and their own symptoms might be prolonged and exaggerated due peyote use. With other drugs, it can enhance their effects and prolong the state of euphoria and period of hallucination.
A dangerous aspect is however that if peyote is distributed in the streets, it is not alone, it is usually mixed with other dangerous drugs such as LSD, MDMA, etc. which have dangerous health effects.
Peyote Effects on the Society
Unlike other drugs which produce detrimental effects on health and society, peyote hardly has such great effects. It affects people on an individual level for a short time but due to its short action and due to the brain’s ability to resist dependence on peyote, its addiction is unheard of. This is the main reason why it is used in religious ceremonies instead of other drugs such as ecstasy or LSD. Its use, however, should not be encouraged as it is a mind-influencing drug and causes impaired judgment and loss of focus and totally changes people’s vision and hearing sense which is dangerous and unethical even for a short amount of time. It makes people useless in that period and if the person is inattentive to details in real life, it can cause loss of jobs, broken relationships, and deadly accidents.
Although there is no evidence of permanent damage or addiction of peyote, it must be realized that it is a drug that impairs the normal functioning of the body, and every such agent is hazardous to use. Its use and distribution should be monitored and regulated so that people don’t feel free to use it.