The Toad Suckers

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Toad sucking is not just an urban legend, people actually do this.  One can’t help but wonder what motivated the first person to lick or suck a toad, but when they did, they quickly found out that it can give a very powerful hallucinogenic trip.  Not just any old toad will do.  The Colorado River Toad (Bufo alvarius), is a large greenish-yellow bumpy creature that at first glance doesn’t look much like something that you want to stick in your mouth.  The bumpy glands that cover its body secrete the powerful hallucinogen bufotenine aka 5-MeO-DMT.

A close relative of the Colorado River Toad, the Cane Toad (Bufo marinus), is also orally abused in some circles.  It secretes a toxic cocktail of psychoactive chemicals what will make the licker quite high for an hour or so.  I should probably pause now to state the obvious.  Don’t go out and lick a toad because some guy on the internet wrote about how high it can get you.  Every once in a while you hear about how someone licked a toad, got very sick and/or freaked out and ended up in the emergency room.  One Australian youth even died after eating Cane Toad eggs.  Agents other than hallucinogens are mixed in with the liquid secreted from the toad glands.  These are designed to make predators sick.  Just say no to toad.

Interestingly enough, our canine friends have also discovered that licking these particular kinds of toads will make you high.  NPR once reported on a cocker spaniel named Lady, which became addicted to licking toads. Lady had to go into doggie rehab.  In certain areas of Texas with a large population of Bufo alvarius, stoned toad licking dogs are fairly common.  Apparently toad toxins don’t make them as sick as other species.

The powerful hallucinogen 5-MeO-DMT makes up about 15% of the volume of a toad’s venom.  It is a schedule 1 drug.  As little as 10mg of the substance can give the user a full-blown psychedelic trip lasting about an hour or so.  If you are not into sucking toads, you can dry out the venom and smoke it.  This is supposed to produce a rapid high with strong visions.  Not into that either?  You could always use the dried out venom like snuff.  This is the way it is used by some tribal peoples of the Amazon Rainforest.

U.S. researchers heard tales of toad sucking and synthesized bufotenine back in the 1950’s.  They began testing in on humans.  The investigators supposedly hoped to gain insights into schizophrenia and other mental disorders. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency also supported the work as part of an effort to develop brainwashing agents.

In one experiment, researchers injected bufotenine into inmates at an Ohio prison. The prisoners experienced hallucinatory effects “reminiscent of LSD and mescaline” as well as nausea and chest pains.  This was reported in the May 18, 1956 issue of Science magazine.  The investigators also observed that “if the color of an eggplant were diluted, it would approximate the unique purple hue of the faces of the subjects.”  These side effects discouraged further official studies of bufotenine.

In the late 1960’s, The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) outlawed bufotenine.  Not surprisingly, “the DEA’s action inspired a few people to try licking live toads”, says Darryl S. Inaba, director of drug programs at the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San Francisco. But “these adventurers became more sick than high”, he added, and toad licking never caught on.

Back in the ‘60’s there was even a poem about toad suckers.  Here it is.  Enjoy.

THEM TOAD SUCKERS

 How ’bout them toad suckers, ain’t they clods?

Sittin’ there suckin’ them green toady-frogs.

 Suckin’ them hop-toads, suckin’ them chunkers,

Suckin’ them leapy-types, suckin’ them plunkers.

 Look at them toad suckers, ain’t they snappy?

Suckin’ them bog-frogs sure makes ‘em happy.

 Them hugger-mugger toad suckers, way down south,

Stickin’ them sucky-toads in they mouth.

 How to be a toad sucker? No way to duck it.

Gittchyseff a toad, rear back and suck it!

 – Mason Williams 1964 –

Sources:

How ‘bout them toad suckers? Ain’t they clods? – Smokey Mountain News

Bufo Abuse – Scientific American

The Sonoran Desert Toad – Erowid.org

Toad Suckers:  Not Just an Urban Myth – Fox News

 

 

About Guy McCardle

Guy McCardle is an American science writer and skeptic. He is a certified Infection Prevention Specialist and served proudly as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A devoted father and husband, he offers his unique viewpoints regarding science and the public interest.
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7 Responses to The Toad Suckers

  1. Henk v says:

    Its one I wish you hadn’t brought up There are lot of things in Gaia’s sphere that will knock yer nipples off and sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any that have a good outcome for abusers. In Oz, I remember a spate of toad lickers ending up in gaol.

    For those who would stupidly consider getting jiggy with our batrachian friends, batrachotoxins are not fun and can kill. Personally, any dose would be an overdose.

    The only poisonous bird (claw venom and flesh toxin) is a honey eater variety in PNG. Apparently, its one of the few critters that has a taste for “hot” frogs in the region.

  2. Guy McCardle says:

    Readers, please don’t go out and lick a toad. It could kill you. That would be a really stupid way to die.

    Weren’t cane toads introduced into Oz to combat some kind of beetle? Didn’t they kind of take things over after that?

  3. Henk v says:

    Sorry, yes cane toads were another disastrous version of bio control and have taken over.

    Another really worrying import is the mosquito fish. Took over but never did the job.

    That is the beauty of doing science sometimes. Creating a career for many many other scientists through your mistakes.

    Mark that down as my sarcasm-cynicism-toid for the week.

  4. Luis Oliveira says:

    Now, one would probably have to be (very) high already before trying to get higher by toad liking. Such a stupid idea.

  5. Henk v says:

    My back is free Louis, But I am sure you’d only get a dose of recently spilled beer.

    Yes, you’d have to be very high to even consider getting higher on something of unknown dose or toxicity.

    Not as high as my back of course…ribbet

  6. Henk v says:

    Our tadpoles are still at the deep frying stage… I will tell you when they are ready to be presented on the food posts.

    Frogs are amasing!

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