The active component of psychedelic toad slime is all the rage these days thanks to its apparent ability to trigger life-changing mystical experiences, yet new research reveals that many of those who smoke the ooze encounter flashbacks long after their trip has worn off. However, while the idea of unexpectedly reentering a psychedelic experience might sound like a harrowing episode, the vast majority of study participants rated their “reactivations” as positive.
Known for its incredibly potent yet short-lived effects, the mind-altering compound 5-MeO-DMT is found in the secretions of the Sonoran Desert toad, and is currently being studied as a possible treatment for depression and other mental health conditions. With a typical trip duration of around 20 minutes, the drug is seen by some researchers as a more convenient alternative to psilocybin, which produces effects that last for several hours.
However, other psychedelic drugs such as LSD have previously been associated with flashbacks, which the study authors define as “a reexperiencing of certain elements of the drug induced state after the drug’s effects have worn off.”
“Descriptions of flashbacks include perceptual, somatic, or emotional sensations that were first experienced during the acute psychedelic state,” they say. “These transient after-effects have been described as ranging from delusions to pleasant bodily sensations and perceptual illusions, to feelings of serenity, relaxation, and a sense of being “one with the world”.”
The phenomenon is so widespread that it has been assigned its own mental health diagnostic classification by the name of Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD). This condition is further divided into Type 1 and Type 2, with the former covering brief and benign psychedelic déjà vu while the latter describes a more serious condition characterized by persistent distress due to ongoing flashbacks.
Worryingly, the study authors reveal that “there are anecdotal reports from individuals who do struggle with reactivations for weeks after a high-dose of toad-derived 5-MeO-DMT that have been reported in online forums… which would be indicative of HPPD Type 2.” To determine the prevalence of these hallucinatory repetitions, the researchers surveyed 513 individuals who had consumed the drug in various settings.
Results indicated that 73 percent of those who had smoked synthetic 5-MeO-DMT in group ceremonies experienced some form of reactivation at a later date, compared to 27 percent of those who took the drug in less structured contexts. Overall, 96 percent of participants who used the substance ceremonially described their flashbacks as positive or neutral, as did 93 percent of respondents who smoked the drug in other settings.
“This observation suggests that the reactivation phenomenon might be conceptualized not as an adverse effect, but rather as neutral or positive byproduct of the acute 5-MeO-DMT experience when administered in certain settings,” write the researchers. “It is possible that reactivations may even contribute to the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects that have been published previously.”
Interestingly, study participants who identified as female were roughly twice as likely to experience reactivations. According to the researchers, this may be because the effects of 5-MeO-DMT are strongly linked with changes in alpha brainwaves, which tend to arise in sex-dependent patterns. However, this speculative explanation is unconfirmed and has not been properly investigated.
“In a broad sense, it appears that reactivations are experienced as transient but intense (Type 1 HPPD) and tend to subside days or weeks after 5-MeO-DMT use in most cases,” write the authors.
“Nevertheless, as noted above, there are some anecdotal reports in the popular literature…that document instances of people experiencing anxiety and impaired sleep from continued reactivation experiences months after the experience.”
The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.