What Is Peyote & Lophophora Williamsii? What Are The Risks Of Use?

What Is Peyote & Lophophora Williamsii?
Most people have only heard of peyote in the context of use by Native American tribespeople, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or healthy drug. 

Unfortunately, peyote use is getting increasingly widespread as more people learn about the plant, how to use it, and want to try it for themselves. One of the big problems is that the people wanting to experiment with peyote often don’t know the risks of using the drug or even understand that there are risks. 

Like many drugs, people are also starting to use other names for the drug to disguise what they are doing or what they are selling and offering to other people.

To provide more information about this potentially dangerous drug and the risks you take if you decide to use it, we decided to talk about what peyote is, how it’s used, and the specific risks that can come with peyote use. 

What Is Peyote? 

Peyote cacti are naturally occurring succulents that grow in some of the arid regions of the United States and Mexico, which may seem like any other succulent at first glance. They’re small, spineless cacti, and some users have even started growing the plant in their homes to make it easier to maintain their drug supply. 

These little cacti produce the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. Mescaline is sometimes also sold in a more refined form, or peyote may sometimes be called mescaline. This is because the word mescaline isn’t as well known as peyote, so it lets people talk about the drug accurately without revealing what drug they are talking about. 

Mescaline can also be created synthetically, allowing drug sellers to sell more concentrated versions of the drug with elevated risk. 

Like all hallucinogens, peyote has the potential to cause vivid hallucinations, significant sensory changes, and other effects, including intense emotions, which are some of the main reasons people use the drug. However, those side effects come with other potentially dangerous side effects we’ll discuss later. The drug might be riskier for people with a history of addiction or substance use disorders. 

What is peyote and lophophora williamsii?

What Is Lophophora Williamsii? 

Lophophora Williamsii is the scientific name for peyote cacti, and, like mescaline, it’s a technically correct way to refer to the plant. However, it’s also much less likely to be recognized. So many people who call peyote Lophophora Williamsii, or sometimes just Lophophora, are probably doing it to disguise what they are talking about or make it safer to talk openly about their peyote risk. 

There are exceptions. Botanists, ecologists, and people working to protect and preserve the environments where peyote cacti grow may also use the scientific name for the plant. In this case, they are distancing themselves from its use as a drug and instead concentrating on understanding or preserving the natural environment. 

If someone is talking about Lophophora Williamsii without a good reason to use a plant’s scientific name, you might want to talk to them about peyote use. 

Why Do People Take Peyote? 

There are many reasons why peyote is growing in popularity and why people might take the drug. One of the primary reasons is the myth that naturally occurring drugs are safer than synthetic drugs, which can lower someone’s perception of risk, making them more likely to be willing to try a drug. 

Another reason for peyote use is that peyote is protected for use in certain Native Tribes’ religious practices, and it’s legal for the members of certain Tribes to use a certain amount of peyote. Religious protection also gives some people the idea that peyote must be safe, or it would be 100% illegal. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily true. 

Lastly, many people who use peyote are interested in the supposed spiritual side effects or want to experience a hallucinogen high and think that peyote sounds like the safest or most accessible option. 

It’s important to stress that no drug is completely safe or risk-free, certainly not controlled, and fully or partially illegal drugs like peyote. Certain drugs are controlled or illegal because they can pose a risk to individual health and public health or have significant risks without significant benefits. 

So, while people can have a wide variety of reasons for using peyote, none of those reasons make it safe or a good idea to try. 

What Are The Risks Of Using Peyote? 

All drugs, even the prescribed drugs you get from your doctor, have some associated risks. The level of risk generally determines how often a drug is used and how tightly its use is controlled. 

When it comes to drugs that are generally illegal (outside of very specific circumstances), like peyote, you can generally assume that there are more risks than average or that the risks are more severe than people tend to expect. 

Here are some of the common side effects, mental and physical, that come with peyote use. 

Side Effects 

  • Appetite loss
  • Insomnia
  • Flushed skin
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature (a small fever) 
  • Sweating
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Poor coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Altered perceptions
  • Intense feelings
  • Altered sense of time
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations (potentially involving more than one sense) 
  • Synesthesia
  • Panic
  • Paranoia

Not everyone will experience all of these side effects, but peyote is notorious for having many side effects for most, and nausea and vomiting are almost guaranteed. Side effects can get more intense with larger doses and may last longer the more peyote you take. 

Since the amount of mescaline can vary when you’re using peyote, it’s also very difficult to accurately dose this drug, which means you may have more severe side effects than anticipated if you accidentally get more of the drug than you meant to. 


There are a lot of risks that come with taking any drug, including peyote. Those risks include the risk that you’ll behave dangerously or even fail to see that something is dangerous while you’re on the drug. 

In addition to those general risks, peyote can also have other severe problems. 

For one thing, nausea and vomiting due to peyote can make it difficult to stay hydrated or keep food down. That can be a big problem when you combine dehydration with the fever and the altered sense of time due to the drug. You may not be able to realize how long it’s been since you kept water down, and you may not realize how thirsty you are while you’re taking the drug. 

In addition, mescaline is thought to have the same risk of causing hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder at about the same rate as LSD, which means that peyote users are at risk of recurring side effects and symptoms of peyote at a future date, even when they haven’t been using peyote. 

Are natural drugs safer than synthetic drugs?

Are Natural Drugs Like Peyote Safer Than Synthetic Drugs? 

No. This is a common myth that natural drugs are safer than synthetic drugs. The truth is that natural and synthetic drugs are similar, and there isn’t a significant difference between being natural and synthetic. 

Instead, it depends on how the chemicals in the drug interact with your body and the potency of the drugs you take. 

A small amount of a poisonous plant can be disastrous, even though poisonous plants are perfectly natural. The same principle applies here. The potential risks are what’s in the drug, not where that drug originates. 

Can Peyote Be Addictive? 

One big difference between hallucinogens and other drugs is that hallucinogens don’t usually cause the kinds of physical cravings and dependence that other drugs can cause. That means they aren’t generally considered addictive, at least not in the traditional sense. 

That doesn’t mean that you can’t develop a psychological need for the drug or that you won’t find yourself craving it, just that those cravings don’t come from a physical need. 

Some people may want the escape, the hallucinations, or the intense emotions of the drug enough to continue using peyote, sometimes in ways that can look like an addiction or cause enough disruption to their normal lives to cause problems. 

How To Get Help Stopping Peyote Use

If you’ve abused peyote or want help overcoming your abuse and returning to your regular life, the good news is that you’re not alone. Many people and experts are dealing with drug use and addiction and the reasons people turn to drug use in the first place. We can help you overcome peyote use. 

Ready to learn more about your treatment options? Not sure where to get started? Call Epiphany Wellness. We can help answer your questions or even help you find the right treatment program to reclaim your life and live the way you want to. 



  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, November). Hallucinogens Drug Facts. Retrieved from  https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens on 2023, January 25
  2. Schaefer A, Weiss. Healthline. (2022, April 18). Peyote: What It Is, Effects, Uses & More. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/peyote-101 on 2023, January 25
  3. T B. Verywell Mind. (2022, October 12). What to Know About Peyote Use. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-peyote-stay-in-your-system-80310 on 2023, January 25
  4. Hermle L, Simon M, Ruchsow M, Geppert M. National Library of Medicine. (2012 October). Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736944/ on 2023, January 25

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