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Toad Suckers: Not Just an Urban Myth

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Humans will do pretty much anything. As evidence of this truth, look at toad sucking. This is not a metaphor. Toad sucking is a real activity, not an urban myth. It is exactly described. You pick up a toad, insert part of it into your mouth, and suck. But it’s not just any toad that gets sucked, and the toad sucking has a surprising payoff. There’s no clear history of when this practice took off. But one thing is for certain—toad sucking can be serious business.

One species of toad in particular, Bufo alvarius, suffers the indignity of being licked and sucked and squeezed from time to time. This species is the Colorado River toad or Sonoran Desert Toad. Bufo alvarius are very large toads, covered on the neck and limbs with prominent bumpy glands that produce a powerful cocktail containing bufotenine aka 5-MeO-DMT, a potent hallucinogen. Another species, Bufo marinus, the Cane Toad, also secretes a toxic cocktail in its bumpy external glands and sometimes suffers the same licking and sucking. The glandular excrescences from the skin and venom of the toads can produce profound psychoactive effects. In other words, toad-sucking is a remarkably strange way to get high. Refer back to the original premise. Humans will do pretty much anything.

Even dogs get into the act of sucking and licking toads. NPR reported a cocker spaniel named Lady, which became addicted to licking toads. Lady had to go into doggie rehab. Online chat rooms are filled with pet owner comments regarding their toad-licking dogs. In areas of Texas where Bufo alvarius is abundant, reports of toad-licking dogs acting whacked – out are common.

The presence of the hallucinogen 5-MeO-DMT in toad venom is significant. This schedule I (highly illegal) drug accounts for as much as 15 percent of the total volume of the toad venom, and only as few as 10 milligrams are required to produce a full-blown psychedelic trip lasting about an hour. Some avid users of toad gland extract find Bufo toads, milk the venom from the prominent glands into a container, and subsequently dry the venom on glass. The squeezing of venom from the toad’s glands apparently causes the toads no harm, but they probably do not overly enjoy the experience. The resulting dried material is smoked, producing a rapid high with strong visions. Apparently the material can also be used as a snuff. In fact, some hallucinogenic snuffs made traditionally by tribal people in the Amazon rainforest contain this same psychoactive compound. Caveat emptor. This is not for the faint of heart, and please do not consider this article any sort of advice to give it a try. In other words, do not attempt this at home.

So what are we to make of toad sucking, licking, squeezing, smoking and snorting? Humans will tinker with their brains any way possible, and are willing to try things that boggle the imagination. We actually produce a compound similar to the psychoactive agent in sucky-toads, in our own brains and bodies. The reason we manufacture this powerful hallucinogenic agent DMT remains a mystery. But at the very least, we appear to possess built-in mechanisms to accommodate strange agents like toad secretions. Perhaps this is an ancient adaptation developed as a protective mechanism in prehistoric times. Perhaps we all possess the basic hardware and chemicals for what is often called mystic experience. Toad-sucking and other means of obtaining psychoactive toad secretions may date back to a time in the distant past when such agents were more widely incorporated into ceremonies and rituals in nature-based societies.

Every once in a while you read of someone who, upon hearing about toad-sucking gives it a go and winds up vomiting tremendously and winding up in a hospital. The concoction produced in Bufo toad glands not only contains a hallucinogen, but a mix of other agents designed to make predators sick. Dogs oddly enough seem to fare reasonably well, though they can get terrifically spaced out. For people, the best advice is to let toad-sucking remain the stuff of legend, and forget about trying it yourself.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at MedicineHunter.com.