Why Are People Smoking Toad Venom?

                                                        Bufo alvarius toad

A new craze is taking hold among those who are looking for healing from anxiety and depression – smoking toad venom. Would you do it?

In case you haven’t heard, Christine Haack of HGTV’s Christina on the Coast, has taken up the practice of smoking toad venom to handle her anxiety.

“Smoking the bufo toad venom is a life changing experience and different for every person. It can’t be summed up in a post,” she wrote on an Instagram post. She described the experience as feeling “like my ego was being ripped away from me – a much needed ‘ego death.”

She went on to explain that smoking a Bufo toad “basically reset my brain and kicked out years of anxiety in 15 mins.”

So what exactly is Bufo toad venom?

According to Addiction Center, toad venom, specifically the kind that comes from a rare species of toad native to the Sonoran Desert, Bufo Alvarius, produces a venom known as 5-MeO-DMT, which is an extremely potent natural psychedelic. It’s comparable to mescaline, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms.

“The narcotic has long been ingested by licking the poisonous amphibian’s back but is now more commonly consumed as a smokable ‘dust’ form,” the site explains. “The liquid is extracted by milking the toad’s toxic venom glands and then dehydrating it into a crumbly dry paste. Shamans throughout Mexico and the southwestern US have been harvesting and smoking the substance for decades, and now thousands of people throughout the country are seeking out the powerful psychedelic.”

With the drug’s hallucinogenic effects taking hold in just five minutes after ingestion, it supposedly causes a “powerful religious-like trip” for about an hour.

“Individuals that have taken the toad venom described their trips as being one with the universe and feeling ‘reborn’ – one user said they felt ‘a total fusion with God’ while under the influence. Users experience bright colors, moving environments, or recursive patterns. According to researchers, the drug often leaves users immobile and unresponsive, and can cause intense emotional reactions, euphoria, convulsions, and vomiting.”

It can also leave people suffering from extreme nausea and confusion for days afterward.

According to Alan K. Davis, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the Psychedelic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University, “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.”

This is why Bufo toad venom is a Schedule 1 classified substance which carries the threat of a 10-year prison sentence for possession. In many cases, users hire foreign shamans to distribute the drug at parties that can cost up to $500 a person to attend.

However, once the venom wears off, users say they experience an “afterglow” that triggers many positive life changes. Researchers say that the 5-MeO-DMT seems to have a placebo analgesic effect comparable to hypnosis, and has been shown in trials to help break attachments to past trauma as well as negative behaviors and thought patterns.

Researchers at John Hopkins University believe it could be useful in treating anxiety and depression when used in a controlled setting with a well-trained medical professional, with some preliminary studies showing promise. Davis believes this is due to the neurological changes caused by the 5-MeO-DMT in the brains of users.

However, researchers stress that this drug is not for recreational use and should only be administered under medical supervision.

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