Toad Venom Addiction and Abuse
Smoking toad venom has recently become a way for people to partake in a so called “religious experience” where the psychedelic venom from the Colorado River toad causes the user to trip and hallucinate. Some say it can cure depression, but other research shows it can be addictive and dangerous.
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What Is Toad Venom?
Recently the practice of smoking toad venom has been gaining traction across the United States. Licking toads in the Bufonidae family has been a practice to experience a psychedelic trip but licking toads (typically a cane toad) can be dangerous, causing muscle weakness, rapid heart rate, and vomiting. The toad venom being used today is from the Colorado River toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad. This nocturnal toad grows up to 7 inches in length and has dark leathery skin. It is found in Mexico and in the United States in Colorado, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The Colorado River Toad is semi aquatic, so it can be found in desert areas and near bodies of water such as springs, canals, and ponds. The toad eats many insects and will also eat lizards, small mammals, and amphibians. It uses toxic secretions to ward off predators like skunks, raccoons, and birds. It is this toxic secretion that makes the toad valuable to humans who are looking to get high.
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Each toad has venom glands that excrete toxins containing 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic chemical. The liquid is extracted from the toad’s glands and then dried into a paste. This paste is then smoked, and users experience a trip that starts within 10 to 30 seconds. According to John Hopkins University, the user will then be physically incapacitated for about 30 minutes and time, vision, and sound may be distorted. Users say the experience is “indescribable” but similar descriptions typically refer to the trip as a feeling of awareness, being connected to a higher power, and feeling reborn. The trip is over after an hour, and users are left with an altered mood and perception, with some users even making major life changes because of their new outlook.
Is Toad Venom a Cure for Depression?
The psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT can be found in certain plants, the Colorado River toad, and can also be made synthetically in a lab. This hallucinogen is a schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no defined medical purposes, has a lack of safety, and has a high potential for abuse. People are obtaining the drug by either extracting it from the frogs or paying a foreign shaman, often from Mexico, to pass around the drug at ceremonies intending to have a religious experience.
In these group experiences, there is at least one person in attendance who is not under the influence of the drug to oversee others because of the drug incapacitating its users. Some believe that partaking in a 5-MeO-DMT trip can cure their depression and anxiety. Researchers are trying to figure out if that is true.
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In a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 362 people that consumed 5-MeO-DMT in a ceremonial group setting were surveyed about their experience. Most of the sessions contained 5 to 12 people and were overseen by a “facilitator” who administered the drug. One hundred and sixty-two of the people surveyed reported suffering from depression or anxiety. After the psychedelic trip, 80% reported improvements in their conditions. There is no data on how long the improvements lasted.
Psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in “magic mushrooms”, has been found to produce anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects. However, the trip from mushrooms typically lasts 4 to 6 hours, making it a very time-consuming process, especially if preformed in a clinical setting. Because the trip from toad venom only lasts up to an hour, users could potentially have the same experience in less time and in a controlled setting. It can be difficult to study these topics involving illegal drugs due to resources and funding, but some scientists believe there is potential for helping people with depression and anxiety. Others believe the danger outweighs the possible benefits.
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The Dangers of Toad Venom
There is always a risk consuming any drug, regardless of whether it is produced naturally or in a lab. After smoking toad venom, the user will be unable to move or be aware or their surroundings. Some people who take this drug at a party put themselves at risk of being taken advantage of. Alan K. Davis of the Psychedelic Research Unit at John Hopkins University in Baltimore said, “It’s such an intense experience that, in most cases, doing it at a party isn’t safe. It’s not a recreational drug. If people get dosed too high, they can ‘white out’ and disassociate from their mind and body.” Davis also says some people can experience anxiety for days afterwards, and some end up going to the emergency room.
There are conflicting opinions on whether hallucinogens, like toad venom, are addictive. Common hallucinogens include LSD, magic mushrooms, Mescaline, DMT, and 251-NBOMe. These drugs affect the brain by disrupting communication between brain chemical systems and the spinal cord. This impacts mood, sensory perception, body temperature, sexual behavior, sleep, hunger, and intestinal muscle control. Many people will see, hear, and feel things that are not actually there, and they may also experience nausea, increased heart rate, and changes in feelings, sensory experiences, and the sense of time.
Using hallucinogens can cause panic, excessive sweating, dry mouth, sleep problems, and psychosis. In some cases, users suffer from persistent psychosis, which is continued mental problems having to do with disorganized thinking, paranoia, and visual disturbances. There is evidence that some hallucinogens like LSD and PCP are addictive, with repeated users building a tolerance to the drug and needing to take more to get the same effect. Some users have stated that they are only happy when using psychedelics, and they have negative feelings during periods where they are not using the drug. This leads to an unhealthy need for drugs, and can be considered an addiction.
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Stop Using Toad Venom
Not only is smoking toad venom risky and potentially dangerous to humans, it also effects animals. The illegal collection of Colorado River toads for their use in the drug trade is a threat to the species. The toads use their venom to protect themselves and a human should not bring a toxic animal near their home. There have been reports of dogs picking up a Colorado River toad and being killed by the strong venom it secretes. The toxin can also cause dogs to have a seizure, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, and to foam at the mouth.
The dangers of smoking toad venom are slowly being brought to light as more people start experimenting with this largely unstudied drug. If you or someone you know is abusing toad venom, please contact a treatment provider today who can provide you with the resources you need. There is no standard for manufacturing hallucinogens, and it cannot be guaranteed that there aren’t dangerous substances added to the drug.