The Colorado River toad is one in a long line of examples of just how far humans are willing to go in order to intoxicate themselves with chemical substances that alter their perception of the world. Although animals will sometimes partake in nefarious activities, taking things like alcohol and drugs is essentially a human trait. In this instance, people use the venom from the toad as a potent psychedelic.
This particular amphibian, which can be found in parts of the United States and Mexico, secretes a cocktail of chemicals when it is frightened or stressed. This substance contains the most potent psychedelic toad venom in the world and has become famous for its psychoactive properties.
While there are several toads that get you high, it is the Colorado River toad that is the most powerful. People have traveled from around the world in order to experience the hallucinations that it can induce.
There has been some evidence to support the idea that ancient natives to the Americas may have used certain species of toads as a natural drug to become intoxicated during rituals. Researchers believe that these accounts could well be true and that the Colorado River toad is the likely culprit. When this animal (also known as the Sonoran Desert toad) feels under threat it will secrete a venom that contains both 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin. These are two psychoactive chemicals that can have psychedelic effects on those who use them. The effects of these chemicals causes strong visual and auditory hallucinations as well as intense feelings of euphoria.
Although it may sound like something out of a film or television show rather than a real life occurrence, there are many people who engage in toad licking. The principle reason is so that they not only get high but experience vivid hallucinations as a result of the powerful psychedelic properties of the venom. These trips will last for anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour and are often accompanied by feelings of pleasure. There have also been no evidence to suggest long-lasting effects, meaning it has become a popular form of drug use from those who don’t want to face addiction or health problems.
Although toad licking has been the more common way of getting high from the venom of these creatures, it runs several risks. Taking the substance directly from the amphibian runs the danger of also ingesting the toxins that are secreted at the same time. These can cause a number of unpleasant side effects. To avoid this problem some people have taken to extracting the poison directly from the glands and then heating up the liquid. This breaks down the toxic elements of the mixture, leaving behind just the hallucinogenic compound. The psychedelic can then be dried and smoked like many other drugs. The NY Times described the dried venom as having "the consistency of rubber cement."
There are numerous reasons that having one of these toads in your possession can be illegal. It is classified as an endangered or threatened species in many states in which it is indigenous, meaning capturing them at all could be an offense. Many states also have laws that prevent people from transporting creatures outside the state in which they lived. However, even in places where capturing the Colorado River toad is permitted, police can still press charges if they determine that it is only being held with the intent of smoking its venom.