Mescaline, a psychoactive alkaloid found in the peyote cactus native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., is the oldest known psychedelic. It has been used for thousands of years by Indigenous peoples–and was a favorite drug of elders of the psychedelic world, including the writer Aldous Huxley, the poet Allen Ginsberg and the legendary chemist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin. It was synthesized by a German chemist more than a century ago.
Yet mescaline faded from the scene during the 1950s and 1960s. It was supplanted in the counterculture by LSD, a far more potent drug.
More recently, research scientists at universities including Johns Hopkins and NYU have made psilocybin their drug of choice as they seek remedies for a variety of mental ailments. The nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is moving closer to gaining FDA approval for MDMA and talk therapy as a treatment for PTSD. MDMA, known on the street as ecstasy or molly, could become widely available with a prescription in a year or two.
But mescaline has not been forgotten. A startup company called Journey Colab is preparing to start clinical trials to investigate the potential of mescaline to treat alcohol use disorder. Journey Colab and its founder, Jeeshan Chowdhury, have set aside equity in the company to recognize the contributions of indigenous people to psychedelic science.