Peyote Effects: What Happens To User During Peyote Trip?

Last Updated: December 19, 2019

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.

Side Effects of Peyote: An Overview

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.

What are the effects of Peyote on the brain?

Possible negative effects that peyote has on the brain are:

  • Distorted vision
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Synesthesia
  • 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)
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite

Peyote Trips

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.

Common Side Effects of Peyote

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:

Physical Effects

  • 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 Peyote Side Effects

Its addiction potential is very low, and although heavy users might develop tolerance, addiction is rarely noticeable. What is considered dangerous is a hallucinogen persisting perception disorder which causes people to experience flashbacks of the peyote trips long after the effects have worn out.
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.

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Published on: August 16th, 2016

Updated on: December 19th, 2019

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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