Spanish Porn Star Arrested After Man Dies During Ritual Involving Inhaling Psychedelic Toad Venom

Bufo alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, or Colorado River toad, is found in northern Mexico and the southwest of the United States. Pascal Halder/Shutterstock

A porn star has been charged with manslaughter following the death of a man during a "mystic ritual" that involved inhaling psychedelic toad venom.

Spanish porn actor and producer Nacho Vidal, an employee, and a family member were arrested in southeastern Valencia in connection with the death of fashion photographer José Luis Abad in July 2019, Spanish community website La Vanguardia reports. Allegedly the death came during a shamanic ceremony that was intended to help Abad overcome a drug addiction.

"The police operation began following the victim's death during the celebration of a mystic ritual based on the inhalation of venom of the bufo alvarius toad," police said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

“[W]e have been able to establish that an offense of involuntary manslaughter and a public health offense had occurred, allegedly committed by those who organized and presided over the ritual.”

Bufo alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, or Colorado River toad, is found in northern Mexico and the southwest of the United States. Its main defense mechanism is glands that produce the known hallucinogen 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), which is potent enough to kill a grown dog. 

Of course, a toad like this can only go so long unlicked, and people have started using the secretions as a trendy new mind-altering drug and naturalistic treatment of mental health issues. The US Addiction Center describes the psychedelic toad venom as comparable to the high from ayahuasca, mescaline, and magic mushrooms. While it was once common to ingest the venom by licking the toad directly, it's more common for the liquid to be extracted from the toad before being dehydrated into a type of dust and then smoked. Shamans in Mexico have been using the substance for decades. 

The hallucinogen's effects are fast-acting, last for an average of 20 minutes, and have been described as causing religious-like experiences.

"It’s such an intense experience that, in most cases, doing it at a party isn’t safe. It’s not a recreational drug. If people get dosed too high, they can ‘white out’ and disassociate from their mind and body," Alan K. Davis, clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor at the Psychedelic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University, told the Addiction Center. 

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The Spanish police warned in the statement that using the substance was more dangerous than people realized, and was being sold to "highly suggestible people" as a way to cure their ailments and addictions. “This was a commonly practiced activity carried out for therapeutic or medicinal ends, but which posed a serious threat to public health despite being dressed up as what appeared to be an apparently inoffensive ancestral ritual.”

While there have been studies into the use of Bufo alvarius that have shown promise as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress, it's not recommended outside of a clinical setting.

Vidal had reportedly told people of his experiences using the substance in a YouTube video, telling viewers that "I had seen God, I had the Holy Grail and I wanted everyone to see it," adding "when I took the toad I died; I saw my death and I am not afraid of death".

Vidal maintains that Abad took the substance of his own volition, before his death of a heart attack.

"Nacho is very affected by the death of this person, but considers himself innocent," his lawyers said. "With all due respect to the deceased and his family, Nacho maintains that the consumption was completely voluntary."

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