- mescaline and hallucinations
- Mescaline is known under many names, including mescal, peyote, peyotl, hikori, hikuli, huatari, seni, and wowoki. The names mescaline and mescal stem from mezcal, which is the Span-ishnamefortheplantAgave americana,as well as for the distilled liquor (reminiscent of Tequila) that is made from it. The chemical substance mescaline, however, C11H17NO3 or 3,4,5-trimethoxy-ß-phenethylamine, is an alkaloid of the phenethylamine group which has significant " hallucinogenic properties when administered in a sufficiently high dose (i.e. of the order of 5 mg/kg body weight when used orally). Using the criterion of psychoactive potential as a guiding principle, mescaline can be classified as a " deliriant. The alkaloid mescaline has nothing to do with the agave and the distilled liquor. It is derived from the peyote cacti Lophophora williamsii and L. diffusa, the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi), the Peruvian torch cactus (E. peruviana), and numerous other cacti, as well as from the Acacia berlandieri and other members of the bean family (Fabaceaej.Itistradi-tionally won from the dried tops of the peyote cactus (i.e. the mescal beans or mescal buttons), but it can also be produced synthetically. It was first isolated and identified in 1897 by the German chemist and pharmacologist Arthur Heffter (1859-1925). In 1919 it was synthesized for the first time by the Austrian chemist Ernst Späth (1886-1946). Mescaline is administered either orally or subcutaneously, in the latter case in the form of a sulphate. It was added to psychiatry's repertoire of experimental substances during the 1920s. The German chemist Kurt Beringer (18931949) is well known for his pioneering work in this area of research, administering mescaline to healthy subjects (including himself) to evoke what he called model psychoses, in the hope that these might shed light upon the pathophysiol-ogy of the major psychotic disorders. In 1930 the German psychologists Konrad Zucker and Julius Zâdor proposed a rather crude distinction between mescaline-induced " primitive hallucinations and " scenic hallucinations. The German-American biological psychologist and philosopher Heinrich Klüver (1897-1979) was among the first to attempt a further systematization of the substance's psychotropic effects. The main site of action of mescaline is believed to be in the visual and visuo-associative areas of the cerebral cortex, possibly via the 5HT2 or serotonin receptor. Its kaleidoscopic hallucinatory effects are sometimes designated as 'visual orgies'. Klüver divided these effects into five groups, comprising (1) "visual hallucinations of varying complexity, (2) alterations in the vividness and saturation of colours in visual imagery (notably rapid colour changes and " hyperchromatopsia, but also " colour vision deficiencies, "achromatopsia, the appearance of halos, an enhancement of contrast phenomena, and peculiar alterations in the hues and patterns of "afterimages), (3) "metamorphopsias (such as " dysmegalopsia, " macroproxiopia, " akinetopsia, and " micropsia), (4) " visual experiences such as "presque vu and "dual system experience, and (5) "synaesthesias. In addition, Klüver distinguished four " form-constants that would seem to constitute a kind of Leitmotiv for the visual imagery occurring during the initial stages of mescal intoxication. Klüver designates these form-constants as (1) grating, lattice, fretwork, filigree, honeycomb, or chessboard, (2) cobweb, (3) tunnel, funnel, alley, cone, or vessel, and (4) spiral. As he wrote, "Many phenomena are, on close examination, nothing but modifications and transformations of these basic forms." Although rare during the mescal state, the other sensory modalities can be affected as well. Mescaline is famous, for instance, for its ability to mediate " kinaesthetic hallucinations (notably the sensation of flying). Especially in higher doses, mescaline is known for its disorienting effects in space and time (i.e. "time distortions). The brightness of mescaline visions is often so intense that it calls forth a blinding sensation. In combination with the nausea and vomiting that may accompany the initial stages of mescaline intoxication (traditionally interpreted as signs of cleansing), these properties may have contributed to the drug's popularity among Indian tribes for use in their sacred rituals. Because of the spiritual connotations of these rituals, some authors prefer to designate mescaline as an " entheogen rather than a hallucinogen. Mescaline trips are also known as mescalitos. A person intentionally employing mescaline for the purpose of exploring the psyche may be called a " psychonaut.ReferencesHeffter, A. (1894). Uber zwei Kakteenalka-loide. Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 27, 2975.Klüver, H. (1966). Mescal and Mechanisms ofhallucinations. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Leuner, H. (1962). Die experimentelle Psychose. Ihre Psychopharmakologie, Phänomenologie und Dynamik in Beziehung zur Person. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Rätsch, Chr. (2005). The encyclopedia ofpsy-choactive plants. Ethnopharmacology and its applications. Translated by Baker, J.R. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.Zucker, K., Zâdor, J. (1930). Zur Analyse der Meskalin-Wirkung am Normalen. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 127, 15-29.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.