Licking Frogs to Get High? Beware of the Mind-Altering Effects of Bufotenine

What Nurses Need to Know About Bufotenine

You’ve probably heard rumors of people licking frogs to get high, but across the Southwest, licking frogs is a real concern for healthcare workers. The Colorado River toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad is native to Northern Mexico and the Southwestern U.S., including New Mexico, Arizona, and even Southern California. While it’s legal to own one of these toads, the active chemical in the venom they excrete, known as bufotenine, is considered a controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. If you work as a healthcare provider in the Southwest, you should be aware of the dangers and symptoms of using bufotenine, so you can treat overdose patients effectively. Here’s everything you need to know about the drug known as bufotenine.

What Is Bufotenine?

Bufotenine is the active chemical in toad venom. Both the Colorado River toad and the Sonoran Desert toad use venom to paralyze their enemies. If a person licks or smokes a small amount of the bufotenine in the toad venom, they will most likely experience some mind-altering hallucinations, including fast-moving images or blurred vision.

Bufotenine contains the chemical 5-MeO-DMT, similar to DMT, a naturally-occurring substance that’s often used in the synthetic production of LSD. The chemical interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain of the user, leading to a range of physical and mental side-effects.

People looking to use the drug will have to harvest it from one of these toads, usually by applying pressure to the toad’s paratoid glands, located behind its eardrums. Once these glands have been stimulated, the toad will produce a milky-white substance. The user may lick the substance off the back of the toad or harvest it for later. Users have also been known to smoke bufotenine.

Is Bufotenine Dangerous?

Users can react to the psychedelic effects of bufotenine in different ways. Dosing the drug can be difficult, with many users not sure how much they should be taking. In small amounts, the user may experience an altered state of mind and hallucinations. Some users may also experience heart palpitations or see their pupils dilate. But too much and the user could seizure, go into cardiac arrest or even die. The high generally only lasts for around 10 minutes but can be lethal in large doses.

Unlike marijuana, LSD and other hallucinogens, these drugs do not come with dosing recommendations. Users often have to harvest the chemical themselves, which can easily lead to an overdose. While somewhat rare, these toads also live naturally in the wild, which means just about anyone can find and take bufotenine if they know what they’re looking for.

We saw a number of bufotenine-related incidents last summer when several people were caught stealing Sonoran Desert toads from local wildlife sanctuaries and parks.

What Nurses Should Expect

With bufotenine-loaded toads throughout the Southwestern U.S., nurses in this area should be on the lookout for patients exhibiting these symptoms. If a patient is seizing, going into cardiac arrest or experiencing a tightness in the chest or throat, you may want to consider bufotenine as a possible cause. Even if the effects of the drug have passed, some users may injure themselves during while tripping. If a patient has injured themselves or seems to be in altered state of mind, their injuries and their overall mental state may be related to bufotenine.

As a healthcare worker in Southwestern U.S., you should keep this information in mind when treating your patients. Regional healthcare facilities should make an effort to educate staff members on the dangers and side-effects of using bufotenine. Learning about this drug can help you care for your patients more effectively, especially when time is of the essence.

 

Sources:

https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/812.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462041/

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/thieves-steal-sonoran-desert-toad-hallucinogen-13101063.php

http://thefoothillsfocus.com/beta2/?p=995

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