The Sonoran Desert Toad, with glands secreting a venom rich in the hallucinogens 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, is invading Arizona now that monsoon conditions have kicked in for the late summer. They can measure up to 7 inches long and have a low-pitched croak that inevitably serenades the night in multiple states during hot wetter months.

Local news stations are reporting a surge in Sonoran Desert Toad populations now that the rain has started. Reporters focused on the poison danger to pets, and well as the temptation for teens to try it for its psychedelic properties.

“Also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad, this amphibian has a pretty mighty punch,” KOLD 13 News correspondent Andres Rendon said. “What the toad does is that it actually secretes a very strong psychedelic compound, and although very dangerous for animals like dogs and cats, using it for a drug in humans is very much illegal.” 

5-MeO-DMT is a naturally-occurring hallucinogen found in many plant species and in toads. Used across South America for hundreds of years as an entheogen, it’s now being explored in the medical sphere for treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The Arizona monsoon season runs from June 15 to Sept. 15 every year, the Arizona Republic reports, but conditions kicked in a bit later following an abnormally hot year. This year, the state is facing a particularly hot year with record-breaking heat. Additionally, last year’s monsoon season brought record-breaking rain to Arizona and tied for the seventh wettest July-September period on record, according to data from the National Weather Service. 

“The monsoon rain brings in the perfect conditions for breeding for the Sonoran Desert Toad in the summer months, and now that monsoon is in full swing. You’ll be hearing more of the croaking often.”

Sonoran Desert toads are most active for the mating season from late May to September, thriving especially when the weather is hot and rainy. Once the monsoon seasons are over, the toads burrow back into the ground after mating. They can be found in Mexico and in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico. 

How Toad Venom Works

“Please refrain from licking [the toads],” the National Park Service warned last November. Toad licking has become so popular that they are considered “threatened” by the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish and they are considered endangered in California. 

The recreational and medical use of the toads are catching on. Vice Media’s Hamilton Morris documented the Sonoran Desert toad in detail—calling the toads’ secretion the “most potent psychedelic toad venom on Earth,” which also makes it ideal for medical research. Sonoran Desert Toad venom should only be vaped or smoked, InStyle reported. Toad venom is scraped from the glands on the animals and dried into a paste, which is later smoked. “The experience is going to start within 10 to 30 seconds and then you’re going to be physically incapacitated for 20 to 30 minutes,” Alan Davis, a Johns Hopkins psychedelics researcher, previously explained in Johns Hopkins Magazine

Mike Tyson discussed smoking toad venom on Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson. Interestingly, his show includes an animated depiction of toad hallucinations. 

It’s also being explored for its medical properties in the field of medicine. Oxford-based startup Beckley Psytech in the United Kingdom announced August 15, 2021 that it raised $80 million to ramp up clinical trials and research using a pharmaceutical formulation of ​​5-MeO-DMT.

Clinical studies using psychedelics show huge potential to battle treatment-resistant depression, under the guidance of a therapist. But while a psilocybin experience can last five to eight hours, a 5-MeO-DMT session will last just one hour, which could radically reduce the cost of treatment. 

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