Stop licking the psychedelic Sonoran desert toads, says the National Park Service

Stop licking the psychedelic Sonoran desert toads, says the National Park Service


The US government has an unusual request: don’t lick psychedelic toads.

The National Park Service issued a warning this week to visitors to refrain from licking the large Sonoran desert toad while trying to get to the state hallucinogenic enlightenment from a “powerful toxin” naturally secreted by amphibians.

These toads, also known as Colorado River frogs, “have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin,” the Park Service advises. “Handling a frog or getting poison in your mouth can make you sick,” it warns.

“As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it’s a banana slug, an unknown mushroom or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking it.”

While it’s unclear how many people roam national parks in search of toads, and there’s no data to suggest it’s widespread, the practice is well-known in popular culture and among celebrities.

Bufotenine, a white milky substance also known as “5-MeO-DMT,” is a naturally occurring psychedelic secreted by frogs, according to Drug Science, an international scientific research group.

It can be snorted, inhaled or smoked and produces a “brief but intense psychedelic experience or ‘trip'” lasting about 30 minutes, with hallucinogenic effects that are “significantly stronger” than those produced by the primary psychoactive molecule found in the similar substance ayahuasca. , the group said.

The research body said it was a “popular myth” that people could get high by licking toads. In fact, it can be “dangerous,” causing poisoning and even death in humans, the group says.

Prominent figures including former boxing champion Mike Tyson, comedian Chelsea Handler and President Biden’s son Hunter Biden have publicly discussed 5-MeO-DMT therapy, or poison frog rituals.

British scientist James Rucker, a psychiatrist at King’s College London, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he welcomed the warning, citing reports of people licking the cold-blooded creatures in Asia and elsewhere outside the United States. “I guess the vast majority of people are looking for a cheap psychedelic experience,” he said. “I would warn people about that.”

The chemical bufotenine and other natural remedies may be “transformative,” with potential benefits for those suffering from depression and alcoholism, said Rucker, who conducts similar clinical research. “They stimulate the mind and can cause feelings of euphoria and ecstasy,” he added.

However, he warned that they can also cause panic, paranoia and severe anxiety, as well as bring up hidden feelings that are difficult to process and manage without professional support.

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Drugs are often described as “psyche enhancers,” Rucker said. “They can be very positive, beautiful, amazing experiences,” he said, and “catalyze reconnection with self and others.” But he warned that people should be wary of the “hype and hope” associated with such psychedelic drugs.

Bufotenine can also be found in some trees and plants, and its use in the seeds as “shamanic snuff” can be traced back nearly 3,000 years in spiritual ceremonies in Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, according to Drug Science. The chemical works by rapidly crossing the blood-brain barrier and emulating the neurotransmitter serotonin, leading to hallucinations and euphoric moods, among other things.

The substance is mostly illegal in the United States, confidential as a Schedule I drug without an approved medical use. However, secretions can have something limited research use, with the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.

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Calling the creatures “fearful toad allies,” the Park Service described the Sonoran desert toad as one of the largest toads found in North America, usually about seven inches long. Stocky, short-legged amphibians usually make a “a faint, low sound, lasting less than a second,” their call added.

The somewhat solitary toads are found in parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and sometimes California, and generally live at least 10 years.

Adult toads usually have “dark olive-green leathery skin above and a smooth creamy-white underside”, according to at the Oakland Zoo, with an enlarged white wart near the corner of the jaw that also secretes a toxin.

The creatures release powerful chemicals from glands just behind the eyes as a “defense” mechanism against “animals that disturb the species,” according to to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The potent toxins can be strong enough to kill adult dogs that pick up toads in their mouths, causing symptoms including excessive salivation and an irregular heartbeat, it added.

The toads remain underground for most of the year, emerging in the summer rainy season from May to July. They are nocturnal during the hot summer months and mostly feed on bugs, spiders, lizards and sometimes smaller toads in desert thickets or forests.

“I’m sure the toads would also appreciate their dignity and autonomy,” Rucker told The Post. “The frog wants to be left alone. We should respect that.”

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