Study: Peyote Use Not Harmful
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No Evidence Of Brain Damage, Psychological Problems
BOSTON -- A study of the effects of peyote on American Indians has found no evidence that the hallucinogenic cactus causes brain damage or psychological problems among those who use it frequently in ‘Native American’ ceremonies.
In fact, the Harvard-affiliated researchers at McLean Hospital in Boston found that members of the Native American Church ( they were FORCED to call it a Church in order to Legally use it-TYPICAL) performed better on some psychological tests than other Navajos who don't regularly use peyote.
Dr. John Halpern, the study's lead researcher, said the better scores among peyote users were not necessarily attributable to the use of peyote itself, but more likely due to the social and psychological benefits of being members of the Native American Church community.
The research is published in an issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry. The study was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A 1994 federal law allows roughly 300,000 members of the Native American Church to use peyote, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline, as a religious sacrament.
The five-year study found that Navajos who abused alcohol fared worse on the tests than church members who used peyote more than 100 times.
Peyote, a small cactus (Lophophora williamsii), provides one of the oldest known drugs. Peyote produces hallucinations by means of the ingredient mescaline, though several other compounds in peyote may also contribute to the effects of the drug. Peyote is most often ingested in the form of ground up powder made from the dried cactus, but it can also be found as an alcohol-based, liquid extract. Mescaline can be synthesized as well.
Peyote's effects resemble those of LSD and other hallucinogens. Hallucinogens similar to mescaline distort reality and perspective. Hallucinations, intensified colors and images, and enhanced perceptions of touch and hearing can take up to four hours to reach their peak, and can last up to fourteen hours after ingesting the drug. To read a famous literary description of a mescaline trip, you can peruse Miserable Miracle (1956) by French Surrealist poet and artist Henri Michaux, in which he describes, in words and pictures, his experiences with mescaline. Obviously from the title, users can find the experience Pleasing.
Peyote has been in Long use by Native American societies in what is Mexico and the southwestern United States today, and is native to both of these regions. The drug has been a part of Native American ceremonies for a long time now, and continues to be used today by the Native Americans forced to form a Church, the only organization exempt from federal law regarding use of peyote. The U.S. government classifies peyote and mescaline as schedule I (one) controlled substances, meaning that there is no known medical use and it is illegal.
Wonderous/expansive visual- and auditory effects, alteration in space- and time perception, sensations of weightlessness, macropsia, depersonalisation. Mescaline has stimulating effects in lower- and sedative effects in higher doses.
The effects appear within two hours after ingestion and last for four to twelve hours.
Dosage and preparation
The chlorophyllous part of the cactus (buttons) should be cut from the root and can be chewed fresh, or in their dried state, but it can also be prepared as a tea.
Many of the b-phenylethylamines are physiologically active, but mescaline is mainly responsible for the psychedelic effects. Although mescaline is structurally related to dopamine and noradrenaline it is considered that a bioactivated metabolite of mescaline, 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenyl-acetaldehyde, interferes with the noradrenergic- and dopaminergic pathways.
Mescaline is highly cross-tolerant with LSD and elevates free fatty acids in a similar way as adrenaline.2
The Native American Church is a Government FORCED religious movement which originated among the Indians of the Southwestern United States…as a simple/Natural Ceremonial part of their original Culture. It was a Rite…without any Religious connotation..
Its main features involve the use of peyote, a psychedelic, or mind-manifester, drug obtained from the dried tops of a cactus that contains mescaline, in a ceremony combining Indian religious motifs with certain Christian themes. The drug and the ceremony are fused together in a manner acceptable to many Indians today. My interest in this church was a professional one, springing from my researches into psychedelics, the vision-producing drugs the Indians use in a group setting. So far as our research group could make out, the Indians were the first people who used these substances together with certain aspects of Christianity.
We had heard about them in different ways. Religious people who wanted this sect suppressed had published complaints in various newspapers. In my country, Canada, there had been questions and statements from a Minister in the House of Commons at Ottawa. A police report we read suggested that peyote was both a dangerous poison and a drug of addiction. Professor Charles Seevers of Ann Arbor, one of the world's leading authorities on both peyote and mescaline, one of its active principles, has frequently stated that it was of low toxicity and that he had no evidence of anyone becoming addicted to it.
*The U. S. Public Health Service Narcotics Section at Fort Leavenworth have never treated a peyote addict.
Peyote has a long history of use as a medicinal and sacramental herb. Prehistoric trade in and knowledge of the sacred cactus was apparently well established prior to the European conquest of Mexico. At that time, Spanish Inquisitors declared its use to be a punishable crime against God. Ironically, native peyotists, relying on the humble cactus for divine guidance and inspiration, became targets of oftentimes ruthless evangelism.
As in the case of Teonanacatl, the sacred mushrooms of MesoAmerica, the fact that the peyote religion continues to exist despite centuries of persecution is a testament to its importance in the spiritual lives of many.
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a small (less than 12 cm in diameter), round cactus with fuzzy tufts instead of spines. It rarely rises more than an inch or so above the soil surface. The largest part of the cactus is actually underground in the long, carrot-like root. The above ground portion is the "button" which is cut and consumed either fresh or dried. Usually, anywhere from four, to a dozen buttons, are eaten or made into tea. Myths concerning the presence of strychnine in the flesh or fuzz of are often circulated in the common lore, but this substance is completely absent from peyote.
Peyote is a native of the Chihuahan Desert, specifically, portions of the Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas, and south as far as the state of San Luis Potosi in Mexico. Peyote has been an item of commerce for a very long time. Most recently (just over 100 years) it has been commercially harvested in the state of Texas, though its sale is now restricted by law to members of the Native American Church (NAC). (It is estimated that the NAC has at least 250,000 members.) The annual harvest of individual plants, or buttons, is in the millions. When properly harvested, several new heads tend to form from the old root, thereby generating new plants for the future. Unfortunately, plants are often cut deeply, leaving little or no root remaining in the ground.
In addition to commercial harvesting, large sections of the "peyote gardens" of Texas are uprooted for new grazing land with much of the small, slow growing cacti such as peyote, being destroyed as a result. Consequently, the regions where peyote may be found have greatly diminished. Areas where peyote once flourished in commercially harvestable quantities are now very often lacking this cactus entirely.
Peyote is something of an alkaloid factory, producing upwards of 50 chemically related compounds.
The effects experienced after consuming this unique medicine range from a feeling of physical energy and well being when taken in small amounts (though this is often preceded by a brief period of lethargy), to actual visionary experience when larger quantities are consumed. Often, individuals may experience stomach discomfort or nausea during the first few hours though this is not always the case. Noticeable psychic effects usually last 10 hours or so after they begin. Experienced peyotists recognize and welcome the feeling of the medicine working with them as a spiritual and physical blessing.
The positive, life enhancing benefits of the peyote medicine are probably as diverse as the many people
who have found it to play an extremely important role in their lives.
The Peyote Ceremonials:
The ceremonial use of peyote is very ancient. One cache of dried peyote found in a Texas cave, has been dated at approximately 7000 years old. The use of peyote in ceremonies among Mexican tribes was a well established tradition by the time of the European entrance into the continent.
Mexican peyoteism is perhaps best typified by the traditional practices of the Huichol tribe of the Sierra Occidental, along the pacific coast of Mexico. Annual pilgrimages to ritually hunt the sacred cactus are still a central part of tribal myth and ceremony. A group leader, or Mara-a- 'kame leads the humble seekers in their mythical quest "...to find our life.", as it has been said. Only peyote gathered in this ceremonial way is suitable for the spiritual requirements of the tribe.
The Cora and Tarahumara are related groups of people who use peyote in religious ceremony. Cora people are known to trade for, or purchase peyote from their Huichol neighbors, as their own traditions do not require the desert pilgrimage to collect the sacrament.
In the mid 1800's, simultaneous with native genocide, the peyote religion spread north, arriving at a time when indigenous people were badly in need of spiritual uplifting and cultural strength. In the last 100 years, the spread of peyotism has been prolific.
The peyote ceremony which was introduced to the American Plains Indians is a formalized, all-night ‘Sing’ meeting, usually held in a teepee, hogan, or peyote house especially set aside for that purpose. Christian OVERSEER elements are often significantly present, depending on the particular tribe or group leader.
Most of North American peyotism can be properly identified with the Native American Church (NAC), a large, oftentimes un- associated group of mostly native believers. There are numerous divisions of the NAC (NAC of North America, NAC of Navajo Land, NAC of S. Arizona, etc.), with each division being composed of several local chapters, or moons. Each chapter normally has officers who are trained in distinct clerical functions of the church.
The leader of a peyote meeting is known as the Road Chief, or Road Man. This is the person who is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the main elements of the meeting and leading others on the Peyote Road, the way of learning to live life well. Other offices include Cedar Chief, Fire Chief, Drum Chief, and often, Earth Mother or Morning Water Woman.
Though ceremonies among different chapters tend to vary slightly, many common elements are present in most NAC ceremonies. An eagle bone whistle, various feather fans, water drum, and prayer staff, are a few of the ceremonial items necessary to conduct the prayer meeting. Central tenets of the NAC usually involve avoidance of alcohol, devotion to family, and right living in general.
Probably the most simple, and possibly historically primitive, form of peyotism is the vision quest,- alone in nature. Usually this involves fasting, solitude, and quiet but steady contemplation. Peyote is eaten or consumed as a tea and a vigil is kept until such time as the communicant comes to a sense of physical and spiritual completion.
This way of experiencing the personal qualities of the experience sounds very much like traditional stories of the first person who was given peyote by Creator Spirit. Several tribes relate the story of a man or woman lost in the desert. Their wandering leaves them exhausted, starving, and dehydrated. Just at the point of giving up all hope of life comes a voice which instructs them to reach out and take hold of the soft and cool plant which grows just within reach of their outstretched hands. They are then told to eat it to quench their thirst for water, food, and guidance back to their home. /'Sweeps'knows 'a bit' about it-HAH