Americans are being warned by a federal agency to stop licking toads to get ‘high’.
The National Park Service (NPS) issued the bizarre warning on its Facebook page last week.
It said the Sonoran desert toad secretes a potent toxin that can make a person sick or ‘poison your mouth’.
Bufotenin, or 5-MeO-DMT, is a potent hallucinogenic found on the skin of the toad, as well as in some mushrooms and plants.
Legendary boxer Mike Tyson popularized use of the toad venom as a recreational drug after opening up about his experiences on the Joe Rogan podcast this year.
Other notable users include Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, who said the ‘profound experience kept him sober for a year.
Both Tyson and Hunter used an extracted version of the toad venom that can be smoked.
But the NPS is concerned that as the drug becomes increasingly popular, people may turn to physically licking the Sonoran toad.
The animal is found in southern Arizona, as well as parts of California and New Mexico — and western Mexico.
The National Park Service warned park goers in Arizona to avoid Sonoran desert toads, and even to avoid licking them
The Colorado River toad secretes a toxin bufotenin that gives users an extreme, yet short lived, psychedelic high (file photo)
Mike Tyson (left) famously said that he felt like he ‘died’ after using toad venom for the first time. He has since used the drugs dozens of times since. Hunter Biden (right) said the ‘profound experience’ of using the drug helped him get sober
‘As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking. Thank you. Toot!’ the NPS wrote in a Facebook post.
Also known as the Colorado River toad, it is one of the largest toads native to North America.
As a defense mechanism, it secretes the white milky substance bufotenin.
The drug can be inhaled, smoked or snorted and users will often experience a very strong psychedelic high that last around 30 minutes.
It works by blocking serotonin in the brain, a chemical that carries signals to the brain related to emotions. Bufotonin also heavily constricts blood vessels and raises a person’s blood pressure.
‘These toads have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin,’ the agency warns.
‘It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth.’
The Oakland Zoo warns the toxin is so potent that it can kill a full grown dog and cause significant harm to humans.
Bufotenin: The psychedelic drug that comes from TOADS
The Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, emits a toxic substance called bufotenin.
The milky, white, substance is used a defense mechanism for the animal.
It is so potent that it can kill a fully sized dog and cause severe effects to a human who uses it.
Humans who use the drug experienced a significant, severe, high that lasts around 30 minutes.
Mike Tyson described it as so intense that he felt like he had ‘died’.
Licking the back of the toad can lead to a person ingesting the toxin and getting the high.
The National Park Service warns against touching or licking the frogs.
Bufotenine is federally considered to be a Schedule I drug, making it illegal for a person to buy, sell or possess.
Actual reported cases of people licking the toads themselves in Arizona are limited.
There is a growing trend of people using extracted forms of bufotenine to get a high.
Mr Tyson said at a conference last year in Miami that he had used the drug at least 53 times, which his first trip being the strongest.
‘I did it as a dare I was doing heavy drugs like cocaine, so why not? It’s another dimension. Before I did the toad, I was a wreck,’ he told the New York Post.
He described the experience as feeling like he had ‘died’. Mr Tyson said it exposed that he had low self-esteem by stripping away his ego.
In his 2021 memoir Hunter Biden wrote that he had used the toad venom as a tool to treat his drug addiction and alcoholism after while he traveled to Mexico in 2014.
‘It was a profound experience. It connected me in a vividly renewed way to everyone in my life, living or dead,’ he explained.
‘Any division between me my Dad, my mommy, Caspy, or Beau vanished, or at least became irrelevant.’
Ms Handler told the Hollywood Reporter that she had a ‘scary’ experiencing using the drug in 2019.
‘You see visions and colors. I was at some woman’s house, lying in her living room on blankets, and I was immediately drenched in sweat feeling as sick as I’ve ever felt,’ she explained.
Hamilton Morris, an American journalist who has investigated use of psychedelic drugs throughout his career called the trend worrying.
Mr Morris told The Joe Rogan Experience last year that so many celebrities promoting use of the drug could endanger the animals.
‘For conservation purposes its necessary that people stop milking toads,’ he explained.
‘Its become too popular… if a celebrity said they like something that can have a tangible effect on the environment.’
The species is considered to be ‘endangered’ in California and ‘threatened’ in New Mexico.
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