Yale University Press

US and UK



A definitive history of mescaline that explores its mind-altering effects across cultures, from ancient America to western modernity.


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‘This is a terrific account of mescaline, the first psychedelic. Mike Jay has nailed it.’   Michael Pollan


‘Jay is our foremost cultural historian of psychotropic substances and this is a fascinating and brilliantly researched account.’    Marcus Boon, author of The Road of Excess


‘Outstanding…Jay tells a fascinating story with style.’   William Bynum, author of The History of Medicine


‘Mike Jay’s history of mescaline use is a bit of a mind-altering experience itself, both rollicking and intellectually rigorous’   Economist


‘Jay’s great achievement is his integration of the two halves of the mescaline story, ‘Western’ and indigenous…a fascinating look into the varieties and potentials of human consciousness itself’   Literary Review


‘A highly nuanced account…the culmination of a lifetime’s wanderings in the very farthest outposts of scientific and medical history’   Guardian



INTERVIEW with Max Daly for VICE: ‘The fascinating history of mescaline’


EXTRACT in The Paris Review: Jean-Paul Sartre and Walter Benjamin on mescaline



Mike discussing Mescaline at Breaking Convention, London 2019

‘The Art of Mescaline’, illustrated lecture at Writers on Drugs, London 2019




The Encounter that Introduced Peyote to Western Science for Chacruna Institute

Brilliant Visions: peyote among the aesthetes at Public Domain Review

What Happened to Mescaline? at Yale University Press blog

100 Years of Mescaline (1919-2019), in Chemical Monthly

What happens on Page 99 of Mescaline?

A Century of Mescaline for Chacruna Institute



Psychoactive with Ethan Nadelmann

The Drug Science Podcast with Prof. David Nutt

‘Say Why to Drugs: Mescaline’, with Suzi Gage

Spectator books podcast with Sam Leith

TANK Magazine with Josie Mitchell

Hour of History with Steven Baumann

New Books Network with Luc Richert

Think with John McCaa on KERA, Texas

Inquiry with Mark Lynch on WICN

Future Primitive with Joanna Harcourt-Smith

Psychedelics Today with Joe Moore

Soho Radio with Stephen Coates

Foodie Pharmacology with Cassandra Quave

Psychedelicast with Clinton Kaley

Plant Medicine Podcast with Dr. Lynn Marie Morski

The Emptiness Lab with Tom Mountjoy and DJ Murakami

Your Mate Tom, Podcast #30: Mescaline with Mike Jay

Live forever or Die Trying with David Darby

Shaman’s Shed with Mike Alathea

PsychedRx with Dr. Arun Sridhar and JoJo Platt (episodes 1 & 2)

Living Mirrors with Dr. James Cooke




‘Compelling…a cultural understanding above and beyond the limited constraints of the western mind and modernity’   Toronto Globe and Mail


‘In classic Mike Jay fashion, this book elegantly presents the history of the first psychedelic…it ties together many of the delicate threads that make psychedelic history so colourful’   Erika Dyck, History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals


‘Jay’s book is as much a literature review as a history, and reading it I was reminded how much I love trip reports, especially when they are written by the big thinkers of their day’   London Review of Books


‘Jay deftly sets down the cultural and scientific history of mescaline in its heyday: a curious chronicle that deserves not to be forgotten.’    Nature


‘Illuminating…richly informative about the many connections between mescaline and visual experience, both the making and the viewing of art’   Los Angeles Review of Books


‘Mike Jay’s book carefully describes those who came before Aldous Huxley: American Indians, Victorian scientists, pioneering physicians and modern aesthetes.’  Times Literary Supplement


‘A wonderfully engaging narrative…a fascinating and culturally rich dialogue between indigenous, scientific, occult and artistic territories’    Psychedelic Press UK


‘Perceptive and illuminating…amply and elegantly illustrated’    Social History of Medicine


‘Engrossing…a pioneering attempt to grapple with the different uses and knowledge of this substance’   Synapsis


‘A rich history that is intimately linked to the story of indigenous culture, western colonialism and western medicine over the past several centuries’   Chemistry World


‘Jay’s book…cuts across continental divides, ranging from the Andean mountains to the Oklahoma plains to literary parlors in London. More important, it offers a capacious tableau, an expansion of geographical and analytical categories, and thus helps decenter mescaline from purely Western sources and locations’   Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences


‘Highly readable…the mescaline alkaloid has a long and storied history, and has attracted the attention of some remarkable individuals along the way’    AlterNet


‘Very readable and fascinating…certainly the most detailed and comprehensive social and medical history of mescaline’    British Society for the History of Medicine


‘The heart of Jay’s book is both gripping narrative and often tragic culture-wide cautionary tale…it speaks clearly to the present moment’    Aquarium Drunkard


‘An excellent psychedelic history’     Medium


‘Packed with interest’    The Arts Desk


‘An excellent book…a comprehensive history of this enigmatic substance’    Fortean Times #381, June 2019