Step 1: Head to the Colorado River and look for an ugly olive-colored toad. Step 2: “Milk” the toad’s skin for a slimy white venom and dry it out. Step 3: Smoke it.
This might not sound like the most clinical approach to mental well-being, but new evidence suggests that psychedelic toad slime could actually hold some truly profound benefits for mental health.
Published in the September 2019 issue of the journal Psychopharmacology, a new study has found that just one inhalation of vapor produced from dried toad secretion is associated with a sustained satisfaction with life and a decrease in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
The toad is known as the Colorado River toad or the Sonoran Desert toad and, as the name suggests, it can be found in parts of northern Mexico and the southwestern US. As part of its defense against predators, the toad secretes a toxic substance from a number of glands across its leathery body.
The toxic secretion also contains 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine, a psychedelic substance with a similar structure to DMT, found in the mind-altering psychedelic brew ayahuasca. If the liquid is dried out into a crystallized powder and then smoked, it creates an intense psychedelic trip within seconds of inhalation. As shown by its depictions in Mesoamerican art, this drug has been used for spiritual purposes for centuries and it’s still widely taken today as a treatment for mental health problems or as a means for spiritual exploration.
For this study, researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the University of Chemistry and Technology in Czechia assessed the experience of toad venom smoking among 42 people recruited from Czechia, Spain, and the Netherlands. All of the participants, who took a single inhalation of the substance in a “naturalistic setting,” were quizzed about their mindset, cognition, and mood within 24 hours of the trip and then once more after four weeks.
The findings showed that most participants experienced significant declines in feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress following the trip. One month on, this effect appeared to have become even more profound.
“A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produces sub-acute and long-term changes in affect and cognition in volunteers,” the researchers write.
“Participants that experienced high levels of ego dissolution or 'oceanic boundlessness' during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress.”
However, there are a few things to consider when drawing conclusions from this study. The research started off with 75 participants, but only 42 came back for the follow-up investigation. This has the potential to skew the results in a number of ways. For example, it's fair to suggest that participants who came back for the follow-up perhaps had a more positive experience with the drug than those who didn’t. Despite these shortcomings, the research provides some fertile ground for further investigation.
“These results warrant exploratory research into therapeutic applications of 5-MeO-DMT,” the research team added.