If your idea of happily ever after involves an afternoon psychedelic trip, then you may think kissing a frog will lead you to your fairytale ending. But this fairy tale may have grim results. If you’re dead set on licking toads and you’re willing to accept the consequences, warts and all, there are a few things you should know first.
Right out of the gate there is an important distinction to make. Toads are a subcategory of frogs in the order Anura, meaning that every toad is a frog, but not every frog is a toad. Toads are the animal that secretes fabled hallucinogenic substances from their skin. Not every toad is an equal opportunity lick-victim either. Licking some toads will produce the desired effect while others will just make you sick or kill you.
Licking Toads and the Bufotoxin
Toads in the Bufonidae family all have what is called a parotoid gland on the back of their head that produces an alkaloid toxin. If the toad is frightened or stressed, it will release the toxin, coating it’s back. However, the effects of the poison, generally called bufotoxin, vary widely from toad to toad.
Some, like the cane toad, produce a small amount of the psychedelic substance but a much larger amount of other toxins. If you lick a cane toad, there is a serious possibility that it would lead to death.
Animals have realized the dangerous potential of eating toads in the bufonidae family. Most animals avoid the poisonous pond creatures altogether. Unfortunately, domestic dogs typically don’t have the adaptations necessary to realize the threat on their own without training. To them, toads may look like a bouncing new chew toy, and they will often chase or bite toads to ill effects. Dogs have been reported becoming sick, paralyzed, or killed after biting or eating toads.
Clever animals, like raccoons, have found a way around the toxin. They will pull them out of the water by their legs, to avoid touching the poison glands by the neck and flip them over. Once the frog is on its back, the raccoon can eat its belly without encountering the poison.
The Effects of Bufotenine
Bufotoxin is a chemical cocktail that contains bufotenine (5-HO-DMT) in varying amounts. This substance is similar in its chemical structure to other naturally occurring psychedelic substances like psilocybin. It’s also only a few additional atoms away from being identical to DMT, the potent psychedelic chemical found in plants and ayahuasca, a tea brewed for Amazonian rituals. However, the small change makes a big difference.
While DMT trips are highly visual, with both open and closed eye hallucinations, bufotenine trips are more cognitive or emotional. They are also much shorter. Bufotenine trips gained from licking toads only last for around 10 minutes.
There have been many tests conducted throughout the 20th century to measure the effects of bufotenine on people. In 1955, researchers administered bufotenine to prisoners intravenously. They reported a variety of effects including tightness in the chest and visual color changes including the face turning purple (due to poor circulation and oxidization).
Subsequent studies confirmed the effect that licking toads seemed to have on the cardiovascular system. Particularly, one in 1959 in which a subject’s heart stopped and needed to be resuscitated. At high doses, bufotenine seems to pose a cardiotoxic threat.
One of the unique effects reported by bufotenine users and toad licking enthusiasts is the tactile enhancement, which can be an overwhelming full body sensation, especially near the nerve endings. Users say this effect being more intense in bufotenine than in other psychedelic drugs.
Other effects include:
- Perceived changes in gravity (in the 1955 study, a subject reported a heaviness pressing down on him)
- Nausea – especially when licking toads
- Skin flushing
- Constricted blood vessels
- Anxiety and panic
Some describe bufotenine trips as near-death experiences. In human experiences, high doses exasperated anxiety into the feeling of impending doom.
Intrepid psychonauts have been licking toads of all manner of species, some to deadly ends. However, some have found that one particular toad offers the most bufotenine with the least likelihood of negative effects. The Colorado River Toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad or incilius alvarius, is the most famous Bufo toad for psychedelic excursions.
The toad is native to Colorado and Gila Rivers in New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Mexico. It gained notoriety in 1994 when a teacher was caught with bufotenine, which is classed as a Schedule I substance. He was also in possession of four live toads. Before the incident, in the public eye and to law enforcement, licking toads was something curious, rebellious teens did to get high. The teacher was the first person to be arrested for possession of bufotenine with intent to lick.
Although the animal’s conservation status is “least concern” globally, it is listed as locally endangered in California and threatened in New Mexico.
Are Colorado River Toads Safe to Lick?
Licking toads is never a good idea. Even the Colorado River Toad packs a poisonous punch. There have been reports of fully grown dogs dying after eating or biting the toad. Plus, the dosage is difficult to manage. The toad isn’t concerned with secreting the right amount of bufotoxin for you to achieve an optimal high without adverse effects.
Some users “milk” the toads by poking or squeezing them (rude) and scraping off bufotoxin to be dried and smoked. Still, this practice is a gamble because bufotenine can be innately cardiotoxic. You don’t want your last memory before your heart stops to be kissing an angry toad.
The Danger of Psychedelics
Unlike the bufotenine gained from licking toads, other mainstream psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and DMT don’t have high toxicities. Still, that doesn’t mean they are harmless. Many psychedelics have indirectly lead to injury and death when users get into accidents while under the influence. There is a low chance of physical addiction and dependence, but there is a possibility for psychological addiction or other psychological consequences.
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