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.


watch a short trailer




‘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


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


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


VIDEO of Mike discussing Mescaline at Breaking Convention, 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?



‘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



‘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


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


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


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


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


‘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