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Toad-Licking Blues

Thomas Lyttle

"Toad licking" or "toad smoking" are the terms that newspaper reporters attached to the ingestion of Bufo venom by users of illicit drugs. This was (and is) done with the intent purpose of getting stoned or high, or going into a trance in a shamanic manner. (It is important to note that bufotenine-a minor constituent of all Bufo toad venoms-is not hallucinogenic.) In light of this, politicians and the courts stepped in to attempt to control this perceived drug-misuse problem.

In 1967 the Food and Drug Administration placed bufotenine in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule 1 maintains that a drug (or plant or substance) shows no redeeming medical value, is too dangerous for human research, and has a high potential for abuse.

Bufo toads are well known as part of shamanic rituals. No mention of the oral ingestion of toad venom exists in classic shamanic literature, however, because the bufotenine present in the venom does not cause trance or mystical experiences, and both bufotenine and the hallucinogenic 5-MeO-DMT are inactive orally.[1] Also, 5-MeO-DMT is present in only one species of Bufo toad, Bufo aalvarius.

Toxic reactions in human and lower animals are common, however, and include death (in animals) from oral toad venom ingestion.[2] Toad smoking and toad licking should be profiled and studied as two distinct activities. This is an important consideration, especially when studying media reports about toad licking, which involves the oral ingestion of the venom only.

The subject of these clandestine or cult-like uses of Bufo toads presents an interesting dilemma for researchers. The very nature of such activity makes open data-gathering troublesome. Anecdotal or word-of-mouth descriptions often prove invaluable for building a tentative profile of any illegal drug activity, or a legal but persecuted drug activity. This case involves alleged illegal bufotenine use and misuse, and legal but persecuted 5-MeO-DMT misuse.

From all this (but usually with little concern for scientific facts), the media continue to print "psychedelic toad" articles, thus continuing and sensationalizing age-old Bufo toad mythologies, including the myth that bufotenine is hallucinogenic. The focus of these many popular articles are on Bufo toads and getting high from bufotenine and its analogs. This is confusing, as only one of the analogs (not bufotenine) causes hallucination.

Bufo Toad Smoking

In the late 1960s, LSD evangelist Art Kleps founded a psychedelic church called the Neo-American Church. The church's newsletter was called "Divine Toad Sweat".[3] In 1984, Bufo toad evangelist Albert Most revealed his Church of the Toad of Light with his publication of the book Bufo Alvarius: Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert is in New Mexico. This small booklet details how to use the Bufo toad for ritual and pleasure, as well as how to catch the Bufo alvarius toad, extract or "milk" the glandular secretions, dry them, and "enjoy the smoked venom." Most's book claims that 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) is the active hallucinogen, not bufotenine. He is correct, as 5-MeO-DMT is the O-methylated version of bufotenine.[4] Again, it is important to mention that 5-Me0-DMT is present in only one of the more than 200 types of Bufo toads.

Bufotenine is illegal to possess in the United States because it is a Schedule I drug, even though it is not psychoactive; 5-MeO-DMT is unscheduled and legal to possess, even though it is psychoactive. This makes 5-MeO-DMT potentially illegal in the US as an analog of bufotenine or DMT, by application of the 1987 drug analog act. Possession of only one type of Bufo toad (the type that contains both substances in endogenous forms) for the purpose of getting "stoned or high" or for sacramental use remains in legal limbo, pending legislative debate, which is ongoing at the time of this writing. Although seemingly farfetched, conspiracy to possess a (certain type of) Bufo toad may someday be a civil violation or a crime in the United States.

1. Root, G. (1990). “First, the bad news, toad licking will not get you high.” [Letter]. New Times (Miami, Florida); Horgan, J. (1990). “Bufo abuse-A toxic toad gets licked, boiled, tee’d up and tanned.” Scientific American 263 (2), pp 26-7; McKim, W. (1986). Drugs and behavior: An introduction to behavioral pharmacology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
2. Chem, M.S., C.Y. Ray, & D.L. Wu. (1991). “Biologic intoxication due to digitalis-like substance after ingestion of cooked toad soup.” American Journal of Cardiology 67 (5), pp 443-4; Uzelac, E. (1990). (Reprinted from the Baltimore Sun). “A desperation high: Crack? Coke? Croak!” Seattle Times, Jan. 30; Anonymous (1986). “It could have been an extremely grim fairy tale.” Discover 7 (8), p 12; McLeod, W.R. & B.R. Sitaram. (1985). “Bufotenine reconsidered.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 72, pp 447-50.
3. Kleps, A. (1971). The boo-hoo bible. San Cristobal, New Mexico: Toad Books.
4. Shulgin, A.T. (1988). The Controlled Substances Act. Lafayette, California: privately published; Marki, F., J. Axelrod, & B. Witkop. (1962). “Catecholeamines and methyl transferases in the South American toad, Bufo marinus.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 58, pp 367-9; Gessner, P.K., P.A. Khairallah, & W.M. McIsaac. (1961). “Pharmacological actions of some methoxyindolealkylamines.” Nature 190, pp 179-80.

this article copyright 2001 Tom Lyttle
You Are Being Lied To copyright 2001
The Disinformation Company, Ltd.

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