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How Amphibians are a gateway to Psychedelics

This is a pretty interesting article I wanted to share about this guy who started the whole bringing back smoking toad poison from an ancient tradition to modern treatment.

It really provides intricate insight into the whole process of procuring the toad poison and how it is utilized and applied. 

Smoking toad has been likened, in one guide to psychedelics, to “being strapped to the nose of a rocket that flies into the sun and evaporates.” An account from the nineteen-eighties describes how, unlike most hallucinogens, which distort reality, toad “completely dissolves reality as we know it, leaving neither hallucinations nor anyone to watch them.” Michael Pollan, who recently wrote a book on psychedelic science, tried the drug after being warned that it was “the Everest of psychedelics.” He wrote that the “violent narrative arc” of his trip—terror and a sense of ego dissolution, culminating in relief and gratitude—“made it difficult to extract much information or knowledge from the journey.”

Most people say that the experience is euphoric, even life-changing. But, for some, smoking toad can be nightmarish. The drug’s effects come on within seconds, and it’s easy for a novice user to become panicked, which can manifest in reactions such as high blood pressure or tachycardia. These can be dangerous for people with preëxisting conditions, which might be the case for those who are using toad after years of drug abuse. Some people also experience flashbacks, called reactivations, after a trip. “I’ve been waking up in fear like I’ve died—pure adrenaline, heart racing, hyperventilating,” a woman wrote in a support group on Facebook, ten days out from smoking toad. But researchers caution against inferring too much from any one subject’s experience; according to analyses of recent surveys, as many as three-quarters of users have reported these reactivations, with most of them describing the flashbacks as positive or neutral.

A bunch of celebrities always talk about smoking toad venom but no one really actually goes into deep specific detail of the whole ordeal.

My favorite part is that there is only one species of toad (Colorado river toad AKA Sonoran desert toad) that secrets the poison that causes the hallucinations. I wonder why exactly that poison evolved to have hallucinogenic properties. Like what did the toads who evolved that trait of having DMT in their poison survive more than those that didn't. Was making random predators attack it trip balls beneficial? Maybe the DMT dulled the aggro predator drive and was a depredation technique.

Only one species of toad, Incilius alvarius, is known to induce these sensations. Commonly known as the Sonoran Desert toad, it is found in the arid borderlands between Mexico and the United States. The toad spends most of the year burrowed underground, emerging to mate during the summer-monsoon season. In order to repel predators, it secretes toxins from its skin. Dogs sometimes die from ingesting the toad, and regional pet hospitals issue warnings about it. But, in the nineteen-sixties, an Italian pharmacologist published a chemical analysis of the toads’ skin, later inspiring Ken Nelson, a researcher from Texas, to conduct a series of daring experiments. He obtained the toads’ poison by squeezing, or “milking,” glands on their necks. (This process, which is not unlike popping a pimple, can be done without injuring the toad.) The poison dried into a crystalline substance, and Nelson realized that vaporizing it nullified its toxicity, producing one of the most powerful hallucinogenic agents on Earth.

The scientific name of this compound is five-MethOxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine, or 5-MeO-DMT, which many people refer to as the “God Molecule.” In 2011, the U.S. banned 5-MeO-DMT; it is also illegal in several other countries, including Germany and China. But, in recent years, researchers have become interested in its potential therapeutic applications. As with many other psychedelics, the compound can be synthesized in laboratories and is thought to be nonaddictive and low in toxicity; unlike with many other psychedelics, the trip is relatively short, typically lasting around thirty minutes. Davis believes that 5-MeO-DMT might be administered more cheaply, and to more patients, than substances such as psilocybin, which can remain psychoactive for up to six hours.

I just find this so fascinating, someone needs to hook someone up who's tripping to a Catscan and see what exactly is going on in their brains. Like is it actually beneficial to the brain or just a chemical lobotomy? The brain is the final frontier of medicine, and hopefully one of these things are going to be a huge breakthrough for things like Depression, CTE, Anxiety, etc. Could be a huge move.

Yet, for all this ceremony, the sessions can be unsettlingly casual. There is no restriction on bystanders’ watching, and some of them take videos that end up online. Octavio frequently smokes cannabis during sessions, leaving his patients in the care of assistants. Some people scream and writhe during their trips; others go still, or throw up, or become violent. People have had spontaneous orgasms. One day, I saw people film a woman who menstruated through her white shorts during a trip; later, she shared a photograph on Instagram of her and Octavio, adorned with an animated frog and the words “love you.”

Here's a video if you don't feel like reading.