How Long Can Peyote Stay in Your System?

Peyote (Lophophora williamsii), Cactaceae.
DEA Getty Images

Estimating how long peyote is detectable in your body depends on many variables. Peyote—also known as mesc, Aztec, cactus, blue cap, peyote buttons, broken, and dead—can be detected in the human body for as few as two days and for up to three months. The length of time that peyote stays in your system depends on individual factors such as your metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, and health conditions.

Detection Windows

Due to all of these factors, there isn't a definite period of time that peyote can remain in your body. However, there is an estimated range of times during which peyote can be found with certain tests, including:

  • Urine: Peyote can remain in your urine for 2 to 3 days.
  • Blood: There is some data available that indicates peyote can stay in your blood for up to 24 hours.
  • Saliva: Your saliva may have traces of peyote anywhere from 1 to 10 days after using it.
  • Hair: Peyote, like many other drugs, can be detected in your hair follicles for up to 90 days.

Peyote and mescaline aren't included in routine drug tests, so they have to be tested for specifically.

History

Peyote is a small cactus that's found in the southwest United States and northern Mexico and has been used for thousands of years by native tribes in these areas for religious and healing purposes. Peyote's principal active ingredient is mescaline, a psychedelic compound that can also be man-made through chemical synthesis. The peyote buttons that are found on the cactus plants are usually dried and then chewed or made into a liquid or tea for consumption. They can also be ground into a powder that's put into capsules and swallowed or that's smoked with tobacco or cannabis.

As a Schedule I substance, peyote is considered an illegal and addictive drug. However, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of 1994 gives Native Americans the legal right to use peyote for their religious services. A 2014 study on the prevalence of peyote use in Native Americans since the AIRFA passed noted that for around four years afterward, there was a fairly large surge in the number of Native Americans who used peyote. That number has since leveled to just under 10 percent, but the study theorizes that the excessive swell in use was likely due to more people admitting to using peyote once it was legal. Peyote use in both Native Americans and the rest of the U.S. population have also remained stable at somewhere between 1 percent and 2 percent.

Physical and Mental Effects

The amount of mescaline needed to produce hallucinations is very small—usually 0.3 to 0.5 grams. The effects can last up to 12 hours, but this depends on your size, metabolism, and how much you ingest.

The physical effects of peyote tend to be similar to those of LSD and include:

Mental effects that can occur include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Altered sense of time, i.e., it passes slowly or quickly
  • Altered awareness
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • A sense of relaxation
  • Altered feelings and perceptions

Long-Term Effects 

According to the National Institute on Drug Use, there isn't much known about the long-term effects of the majority of hallucinogens, including peyote. However, it is known that repeated or long-term use of hallucinogens can cause the following effects:

  • Persistent psychosis: Though this condition is rare, symptoms include visual disturbances and scattered thinking, as well as periods of paranoia or mood disturbances.
  • Flashbacks: Having flashbacks of your experiences while under the influence of peyote can occur completely unexpectedly several days and up to a year after the drug use has stopped, although the length of time varies by the individual.
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD): Rarely, repeated use of peyote and other hallucinogens such as LSD may contribute to the development of HPPD, which is when you develop flashbacks of hallucinations and visual disturbances that don't go away and may even begin to interfere with your daily tasks of living. These symptoms can be mistaken for neurological disorders such as a stroke or a brain tumor.

Though both persistent psychosis and HPPD are rare among peyote users, they can occur without warning and have been reported even after a single exposure to peyote. Generally, these symptoms occur in people with a history of psychiatric problems.

Risks

The mescaline in peyote is known to be potentially harmful to developing fetuses, so if you're pregnant or think you're pregnant, you should not use peyote.

Though it can certainly cause negative effects such as those mentioned above, the little research that has been done indicates that ingesting peyote doesn't normally seem to be life-threatening. Most adverse effects go away in time, but like all other hallucinogens, peyote may be addictive. Its effects can also be made stronger when it's combined with substances like alcohol or stimulants.

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Article Sources
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  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. What Are Hallucinogens? National Institutes of Health. Updated January 2016. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens

  • Prue B. Prevalence of Reported Peyote Use 1985-2010 Effects of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1994. The American Journal on Addictions. 2014 Mar-Apr;23(2):156-61. doi:10.1111/j.1521-0391.2013.12083.x.

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  • U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Peyote and Mescaline. In: Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide. 2017 ed. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=71