Researchers are currently investigating potential therapeutic benefits of toad venom, though the extent of recreational use of the substance is widely unknown.
What Is Toad Venom?
Toad venom is a type of psychedelic drug that temporarily changes a person’s feelings, thoughts, and perceptions of reality. It can elicit strong emotional and spiritual experiences that range from euphoria to significant fear.
Toad venom, also called Bufo, the God Molecule, or the Toad, is secreted from glands of the Bufo alvarius toad, also known as the Colorado River toad. 5-Meo-DMT is the active psychedelic ingredient in the venom, which can also be found in several plants. It can also be synthesized in a lab, which was first accomplished by Japanese chemists in 1936.
The Legality of Toad Venom
Toad venom is a Schedule I controlled substance, making recreational consumption of the drug in the United States illegal. It is also illegal to use it in therapeutic settings outside of specially approved research trials and settings.
Environmental activists have raised concern about the impacts of toad venom consumption on the Sonoran Desert toad, from which the psychoactive venom is secreted, as the population is in decline. Furthermore, there is concern about the harm caused to the toads, as the venom is only secreted in an act of defense when under stress or in dangerous situations. Reptile and amphibian experts believe there is no humane way to collect toad venom.
The Effects of Toad Venom
The effects of toad venom are felt almost instantly. They start within 10 to 30 seconds of consumption with the most intense portion of the high lasting for 20 to 30 minutes when smoked.
Because of the intensity of the trip, experts recommend having someone watch over you while tripping on toad venom, to ensure physical and psychological safety. The effects typically last for 45 minutes to one hour.
Toad venom is rarely used as a recreational drug.
Common effects of toad venom include the following:
- Incredibly intense feelings
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Distorted of sense of time and space
- Transpersonal experiences
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pressure in the chest
The effects of toad venom, as with any hallucinogen, vary depending on the dose, the setting in which it is consumed, and the individual’s response to taking it. Consuming toad venom in a safe setting with an open mind is most likely to lend to a positive experience rather than a bad trip, but there are no guarantees with any kind of substance abuse.
Toad Venom & Addiction
Toad venom is rarely used as a recreational drug. When consumed, it is typically for religious purposes and spiritual exploration.
A recent study determined it has a low potential for addiction. Over 80 percent of the participants in the study reported using 5-MeO-DMT for healing and psychological purposes rather than for the purpose of getting high.
In the study, the majority of people who used 5-MeO-DMT did so in religious or supportive contexts less than once per year. As such, addictive patterns of behavior to the active ingredients in toad venom are unlikely.
Dangers of Toad Venom Use
The dangers of toad venom use lie in the possibility of a bad trip or negative psychedelic experience. Experts from the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics explain that sensory deprivation or the sense of an entirely empty experience can occur. Experiences of fear, significant terror, and trembling have also been reported.
In an attempt to lengthen the duration of a trip on toad venom and make the experience more intense, users sometimes combine toad venom with a type of antidepressant called MAOIs. However, combining the substances can lead to dangerously high body temperature and even death.
Medical Potential of Toad Venom
Scientists have long explored the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics in supplemental mental health treatment of conditions like depression and anxiety. Recently, researchers have begun investigating the therapeutic benefits of toad venom, as it offers a much shorter high than other psychedelics, like mushrooms. In a traditional one-hour therapy session, a trained professional could potentially oversee a complete psychedelic experience induced by toad venom.
A recent study identified a connection between toad venom use, in both recreational and spiritual settings, and a reduction of anxiety and depression. Eighty percent of participants in the study reported improvement of their anxiety and depression. Greater senses of personal meaning and spiritual significance were reported following toad venom use.
However, information is still needed on the efficacy and long-term impacts of toad venom on mental health.
Getting Treatment for a Hallucinogen Use Disorder
Although addiction to hallucinogenic drugs is considered unlikely, it is possible. Hallucinogen use disorder is defined as clinically significant impairment caused by misuse of hallucinogens.
Once such a disorder develops, addiction treatment may be necessary. Fortunately, the rate of recovery from hallucinogenic use disorder is typically high.
There are not currently any approved medications or therapies specifically designed for the treatment of hallucinogen use disorder. However, clinical support and routine substance use disorder treatments, such as behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing, are suggested.
While tolerance to hallucinogens is known to occur, physical dependence is unlikely. Hallucinogen use disorder typically has a low persistence and can be well treated through therapy and lifestyle changes.
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- 5-MeO-DMT (Bufo). Drug Science.
- 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) Used in a Naturalistic Group Setting Is Associated with Unintended Improvements in Depression and Anxiety. (March 2019). The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
- Other Hallucinogen (LSD, MDMA) Use Disorder. PsychDB.
- The Epidemiology of 5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) Use: Benefits, Consequences, Patterns of Use, Subjective Effects, and Reasons for Consumption. (April 2018). Journal of Psychopharmacology.
- Treating Depression With a Psychedelic Found in Toad Venom. (2019). Johns Hopkins Magazine.
- Demand for This Toad’s Psychedelic Toxin Is Booming. Some Warn That’s Bad for the Toad. (March 2022). The New York Times.