Research from Johns Hopkins has found that the naturalistic use of mescaline is associated with self-reported psychiatric improvements and enduring positive life changes (1). But what does this mean? What is mescaline? How is it used in a naturalist capacity? What kind of psychiatric improvements? Well, let’s have a look at the study, which was published in 2021, to better understand the significance of this finding.
Mescaline is a hallucinogenic compound that’s derived from the infamous Peyote cactus ( Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Trichosurus pachanoi), and the Peruvian Torch cactus (Trichosurus peruvianus). This alkaloid’s compound chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine and is administered orally. The effects of this hallucinogen are said to typically last between 8 to 12 hours (2).
The study’s team explains that mescaline is a naturally “occurring phenethylamine and a serotonin-2A/2C receptor agonist that can be prepared synthetically or extracted (1).” They go on to explain that this drug has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans during religious ceremonies and for the treatment of various physical ailments (2).
Mescaline is considered to be illegal by the authorities in the United States, but Native Americans recognize it as a sacrament. Interestingly enough, mescaline is extracted from peyote, and when used in religious ceremonies, “it is exempt from its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the 1994 American Indian Religious Freedom Act [AIRFA] (2).”
This study is the first international study to examine the possible medical use of mescaline and was published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science in March 2021. The team of researchers included Agin-Liebes, Haas, Lancelotta, Uthaug, Ramaekers, and Davis. They began by explaining that “despite promising early preliminary research and favorable anecdotal reports, there is limited research investigating mescaline’s psychotherapeutic potential (1). They also explain that psychiatric conditions are contributing “substantially to the global disease burden.”
The team states that the “primary objective of this study was to explore the potential therapeutic and enduring effects of mescaline, and the mechanisms that may contribute to therapeutic effects (1).” They specifically assessed mescaline use for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as alcohol and drug use disorders.
The study involved the administration of an anonymous online questionnaire to adults who had to report on their mescaline use in a naturalistic setting. This type of setting can be explained as the place and manner in which the substance is most natural, or normally, being consumed. They recorded responses from 452 participants and then proceeded to assess the self-reported improvements in “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol and drug use disorder (1).” The study reported that 68-86% of their respondents who had clinical conditions reported improvements after the participants’ most memorable mescaline experience.
The survey portion of this study asked participants to comment and respond to the following criteria (1):
In addition, researchers found that demographics did not overall make a large difference in responses to the survey, except that participants who had a history of anxiety and drug abuse reported that their conditions improved about using mescaline. There were also a few minor correlations they saw within participants who were subgrouped based on their psychological conditions, age, and gender identity. These interesting correlations are described below (1):
The respondents were also asked to rate their mescaline experience and the majority reported that their mescaline experience was one of their top five, if not the number one, most spiritually significant, or meaningful experience (1). While these positive self-reported benefits of the substance show promise of a time with more effective treatment, consumers need to be cautious, especially since the long-term use effects are still being understood.
The typical treatment of any psychiatric condition is usually a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, the success depends on access to care and the body’s response to the treatment. The team of researchers explains that these are the reasons for “necessitating further research into effective psychiatric treatment (1)”- which should include mescaline and even ayahuasca or psilocybin.
While this positive association between the naturalistic use of mescaline and the self-reported psychiatric improvements, the researchers explain that the neurobiological effects of psychedelic-assisted therapy are still unidentified. It should also be understood that this lack of research means that the long-term effects of mescaline consumption have not been investigated. Additionally, there seems to be a connection between “functional changes in regions responsible for emotional processing and self-reference (1).”
Additionally, the team provided that there is a possibility that “general intentions for psychological or spiritual exploration” contributed to the improvements which were reported (1). However, the research which is exploring the mechanisms involved in psychedelic-assisted therapies is still in early phases. Understanding the effects, mechanisms and potential long-term effects are crucial for considering the substance as a viable means for treating psychiatric conditions.
Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances such as mescaline but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.
1. Agin-Liebes, G., Haas, T. F., Lancelotta, R., Uthaug, M. V., Ramaekers, J. G., & Davis, A. K. (2021). Naturalistic use of mescaline is associated with self-reported psychiatric improvements and enduring positive life changes. ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, 4(2), 543–552. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acsptsci.1c00018
2. Mescaline. Mescaline – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/mescaline
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