Larger and perhaps prettier than its dry, bumpy cousins, the Colorado River Toad (also known as Bufo alvarius) has a mostly smooth and shiny, olive-green complexion. Though not wart-free, its most notable characteristic may be the toxic, milky-white venom it secretes to poison predators—the indigenous raccoons, birds, and other critters found in the Sonoran Desert region that includes parts of California, Arizona, and northern Mexico. Anthropologists have long surmised that toad venom was used in ancient rituals for its intoxicating effect.

The substance derived from that venom (and also found in some psychoactive plants) is 5-MeO-DMT, an extremely potent psychedelic that is four to six times stronger than its better-known relative DMT (or dimethyltryptamine). It’s also a Schedule I drug making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess, or buy (in Mexico it isn’t regulated).

Some say smoking the substance is a life-altering experience, causing intense and relatively short-lived effects—start to finish, about 30 minutes—that are powerfully transformative (in a good way).

Today, science seems to be catching up with these mystical accounts. A growing number of researchers are studying Bufo and other hallucinogenic substances as legit treatments for many mental health conditions.

In a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health, after just a single-use, this psychedelic lifted anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and provided an overall sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life. Promising scientific research that proves mental health benefits may eventually change the illegal classification but for now, the substance isn’t readily available.

Preliminary research by John Hopkins University suggests that a synthetic form of 5-MeO-DMT also combats depression and anxiety. Psychedelic researcher Alan Davis, PhD, conducted a survey in 2018 of 362 adults, in which 162 self-reported suffering from anxiety or depression. After using the synthetic in a ceremonial group setting of 5 to 12 people with a sober guide, approximately 80% reported improvements in both conditions.

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The unintended positive mental health impact was linked to the intense mystical effects of the 5-MeO-DMT guided experience. The results, published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, also showed that these improvements were connected to strong beliefs that the experience had led to a lasting sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

Some see this as a welcome sign that a new era of unconventional treatments is finally being ushered in.

Toad Facilitator Q&A

For insight about this unique approach, Psycom recently spoke with a seasoned and respected practitioner of Bufo alvarius medicine.  Meet *Sandra (her name has been changed to protect her identity), a respected and seasoned practitioner, recommended to us by a trusted source. A self-possessed 57-year-old woman, Sandra found her calling in facilitating psychedelic toad medicine after a successful career in business (she retired a decade ago). She says toad can be a spiritual journey and describes the experience like this:

“I became the water, I became the tree, but it wasn’t me—I was All in everything.”

What Is Bufo?

Bufo is a powerful and potent psychedelic that comes from the Colorado River (or Sonoran Desert) Toad.  Bufo alvarius medicine made its way mainstream(ish) out of secrecy in 2011. Using Bufo helps you put ego aside to enable connecting with a divine source.

Interestingly enough, though some 5-MeO-DMT plants have a history of traditional use (like ayahuasca), there is no evidence or lineage of any indigenous Bufo alvarius practices. There is also a synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT—which has less variance in potency than the version that comes from the toad.

How Is Bufo Administered?

Bufo is smoked directly in a pipe or vape and quickly goes into and out of the bloodstream. The medicine is collected when the Bufo alvarius toad comes out of hibernation—its poison-secreting gland is milked, the venom is collected and dried. It then turns to a powdery crystal that can be smoked. The synthetic version is smoked differently.

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Bufo’s hallucinogenic effects take hold very quickly—within minutes—after ingestion and last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. People who have taken Bufo often describe their experience as being one with the universe and feeling reborn. Some describe a fusion with God, a visceral connection with the divine source. Others experience colors, looping patterns, and a sense of connection with the universe/all beings.

Will Bufo Cause Me to Hallucinate?

I have observed about 500 toad journeys. The first few seconds are a process of surrender—your ego claws to prevent you from succumbing. The ego fights. If you can breakthrough, get past your ego, most people enter a calm and beautiful space but each individual experience varies.

Some people have past life experiences; some experience it more physically—rolling around, kicking, flailing—while others are still and meditative. Some laugh, some spit, some stutter while talking. Any combination of the above and more can happen—nothing surprises me now

Sometimes what you see—and what is actually happening inside—is entirely different.

If you have experienced trauma, the Bufo brings it back up. I have witnessed people who had forgotten they were raped. The Bufo shuts off your ego, and things that have been suppressed can rise to the surface. Some groups of people, particularly African Americans and Jews, may experience slavery or Holocaust trauma. Trauma affects seven generations—you can really see the imprint of that in some journeys.

Psychedelic medicines, like Bufo, can benefit someone eager to work past trauma. While it can give you the courage to face and break through those traumatic experiences, it can also be challenging. The good news is that on Bufo, you’ll usually circle back to a beautiful space of forgiveness, love, and oneness with the universe.

Becoming one with the divine source is described as samadhi, or blissfully divine experience, where the ego and mind dissolve. A journey of pure consciousness that feels limitless/infinite.  The feeling is hard to describe with words but suffice it to say there is an ego death—and that is the beauty of the Bufo experience.

Is Bufo Experienced Alone Or In A Group?

My teacher, who lives in Mexico, prefers group settings, traditionally 20 or more—there is something very beautiful about the group dynamic. Everyone on the same vibe. I also work in small groups and one-on-one.

While Bufo can be used in many different settings, many prefer taking the medicine outdoors—which makes practicing in New York City where I live a bit challenging. Bufo must be administered in a safe space—if outdoors, the area should be free of hard objects like rocks and trees and far away from areas where wandering off a cliff could be a concern. As a facilitator, I support the experience by holding space during a person’s journey. I am not a shaman or a teacher—the real work is done between the initiate and the medicine.

Prepping for the Experience

Because Bufo is not processed through the digestive system, it does not require the same level of preparation as an ayahuasca ceremony requires but I do follow a protocol that helps prime initiates for their journey.

  • Health history. Having a thorough understanding of any pre-existing health conditions and medications is important as some prescribed drugs are contra-indicated for Bufo. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for example, can be lethal if combined with Bufo.
  • Dietary restrictions. I advise refraining from alcohol, meat, and processed foods for several days prior to Bufo.
  • Meditation. If you have a regular meditation practice, I recommend continuing it in earnest in advance of our session.
  • Technology.  Technology distracts from thoughtful self-reflection.  I encourage slowly weaning from all tech devices in order to cultivate awareness and intention.
  • Forgiveness. Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian tradition of forgiveness, is another tool I recommend. It can make daily life less stressful, restore good feelings, and promote a positive mindset. (Loosely translated, ho’oponopono means to make it right.) It’s a way to forgive people who have wronged you and reap benefits from letting it go. So many people are looking for a quick fix—but imagine a clog that took 20 or 30 years to create—it won’t clear completely the first time. Better to begin working it out before.

Who Benefits Most from Bufo?

In my experience, Bufo is beneficial for people struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as those with certain addictions, like cocaine. It can also be a helpful remedy for PTSD.

How Much Does A Session Cost?

My rate is $200 for a sitting. My process is somewhat unique as I include energy work in my ceremonies, following the Peruvian tradition of the Q’ero. The energy work allows me to clear negative energy which helps heighten the experience. Other practitioners might charge $100 or $150 for the energy work alone, but I include it when I serve Bufo. Serving the medicine is important to me so I also offer a sliding scale for those who could benefit from Bufo but lack the financial means.

Bufo Risks and Post-Journey Notes

Time is needed to integrate the medicine into your life. The post Bufo period is very important in terms of information. Thoughts may start to drop into your head—the key is to tune in and make space for them. I offer pointers to help people integrate those messages and healing into their lives. It’s not uncommon to become emotional—even sobbing uncontrollably—the day after taking Bufo. Many are so moved and overwhelmed by the beautiful and profound experience they feel let down the next day. Some feel guilt questioning if they deserve to have had such a magical experience.

Others experience “reactivations”—or an echo of the Bufo journey that typically happens between 1 am and 4 am during sleep, a non-cognitive space. I like to refer to this as “night school”—but this doesn’t happen to everyone.

Folks that are more on the path—or have less agitation in their life—generally do better with the medicine.

Post Script: Bufo alvarius is not a magic elixir and as with any form of medication, there are risks. Short-term loss of consciousness and respiratory depression have been reported along with fraudulent guides. When looking for a reputable practitioner or retreat experience, be sure to fully investigate Internet search results. Google names along with keywords such as “fraud,” “death,” “scandal,” or “fake” and carefully read retreat reviews. Something else to keep in mind, there are no clinical trials or research on this substance so lots of unknowns. Psycom does not endorse the use of 5-MeO-DMT or any other psychedelic. With the exception of ayahuasca for religious rituals, most psychedelic remedies are illegal in the United States.

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Last Updated: Nov 30, 2020