Years ago, I contributed a short story to a Christmas anthology that a friend was publishing. My piece was named “Santa’s Secret Helper” and it was a rather hilarious (and irreverent) take on what can go wrong when a curmudgeon drinks the wrong kind of tea and has a personality change for the better during the Christmas season. As you can imagine, the central premise involved a drug misadventure. I may re-publish it as a series of blogs closer to Christmas for your entertainment.
Recently, I pulled that short story out of my writing archives and attempted to revive it with a fresh plot twist and with a more South Texas theme. The story is in the editing phase now, is much longer than the original, and I use San Antonio’s Fiesta events as the central backdrop setting. Even the drug misadventure has a more South Texas twist, and the drug of choice I’m using is peyote.
Peyote is a small cactus plant that commonly grows wherever the ground is rich in limestone. It can be found predominantly in the southwest areas of Texas and Mexico. The flowered “buttons” of the plant contain a psychoactive alkaloid called mescaline that produces a wide range of psychological effects, including deep insight into one’s spiritual side, when crushed and made into a tea.
Native Americans and indigenous people of Northern Mexico used the plant in tribal rituals dating back almost 6,000 years. As part of the assimilation programs run by the US government up to the early 1900s, peyote was made illegal among Native American tribes. However, after winning a series of religious freedom cases and the restoration of the Religious Freedom Act of 1993, peyote use for religious practices was made legal again—in all 50 states. It should be noted, though, that present state laws may vary regarding the plant’s legality for use in tribal religious rituals.
Currently, peyote is considered an endangered plant, and selling illegally poached plants are on the rise. For that reason, this plant made a perfect drug component for the misadventure in my updated short story.
I needed a drug that produced an evolving personality change in the character, caused a moderate amount of physiological distress when too much was used, and I wanted the drug disguised enough in a tea that the misuse would not be noticed until it was too late. Peyote was the perfect choice.
Traditional peyote used in tribal ceremonies is said to restore balance among the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of an individual—when used in minute amounts under relatively controlled conditions, that is.
The immediate effects include emotional changes that increase self-awareness, encourage honest communication with others and produce profound introspection. The drug’s hallucinogenic qualities are reported to enhance interconnectedness with nature, oneself and with other people.
Like many drugs that have entered the spotlight for recreational abuse, peyote (or more specifically, its psychoactive component mescaline) has been used therapeutically. Peyote was used in the past for treating fevers, joint pain, skin wounds and snakebites.
A full dose (about six peyote buttons) produces somewhere between 200 to 400mgs of mescaline. Peak hallucinogenic effects occur about two to four hours after ingestion and they last for eight to twelve hours.
Many experience some nausea and other gastrointestinal discomfort within 30 minutes after ingestion. Sweating and/or chills have been reported as well. After about one or two hours, however, the physiological distress is replaced by a sense of calm and openness.
Peyote was the perfect drug for my story! I’m developing a series of such short stories, when I need a break from novel writing, and I hope to publish that collection sometime next year.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!