We’re back to discussing toad venom.

I first wrote about this phenomenon in a post on current doings of onetime heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, who says his practice of smoking cannabis plus toad venom completely transformed his life. For what it’s worth, he’s now aggressively marketing his own line of cannabis products, including edibles shaped like a human ear — in memory of that time he chomped on his opponent during a bout. Mike’s Bites, the product is called.

Sigh. Anyway, the New York Times says the sudden upsurge in toad venom use is threatening the survival of this particular member of the frog family.

Demand for This Toad’s Psychedelic Venom Is Booming. Some Warn That’s Bad for the Toad.

The article’s subhead: ”…scientists say the Sonoran desert toad is at risk of population collapse.” — due, we’re told, to ‘over-harvesting’. There’s a tipping point beyond which the species simply won’t be able to recover. That suggests possible extinction.

The Times article begins (as do the vast majority of such media pieces on psychedelics) with a case history portraying a victim of severe depression who reports having tried every available treatment option without success. Finally, in desperation, they turned to psychedelic drugs. Miraculously, it worked. They’re completely healed. Accordingly, they’ve joined in the effort to spread the word, bringing the miracle to others who still suffer.

It does come at a price, however. It can be surprisingly expensive. Still, claims one man, it produced a ‘full nervous system reset’, so it was worth it.

Don’t ask me what ‘full nervous system reset’ means. Is that like rebooting a computer?

Anyway, with heavy promotion from media celebs like Iron Mike, toad venom smoke has become a threat to the  Sonoran Desert toads, who hibernate below ground, emerging to breed during the summer monsoons. That’s when the unsuspecting toads can be gathered up and ‘milked’ of their toxic venom. The fluid is first dried, then smoked, usually in a pipe (I suppose a vape device would do). The resulting high lasts for 20-30 minutes.

That’s part of what attracts fans. DMT, the psychoactive substance in toad venom, is also known among users as ‘the businessman’s high’ because it can be used, in theory at least, during the lunch hour. It supposedly wears off in time for the afternoon sales meeting.

I’ve run into DMT in a treatment setting before. Two cases in particular stick out. The first involved a dentist who would use the drug in his office, both before opening and after it closed. One morning the custodian found him unconscious on the consulting room floor. The second case featured a 25 year old woman who claimed she turned to regular doses of DMT to help wean herself off a heavy cocaine habit. I asked her if it worked. “Not really,” she admitted.

Both individuals wound up in rehab, so neither could be considered a rousing success.

There are adverse effects from toad venom, which is after all, a toxic substance, but I’ve noticed that new users usually turn to more experienced users and pro-drug websites for assurances that it’s safe. There are synthetics that contain DMT but purists are said to favor the real thing.

One veteran leader of toad venom ‘trips’ warns that some users may foam at the mouth, or their eyes roll back in their heads. After that, I guess it’s smooth sailing.

By the way, along with folks who hunt for and harvest the toads in great numbers (‘farmers’), there are also those who specialize in stealing them from others. Toad rustlers, we might call them.

It does seem logical to me that trends such as this would emerge and gain prominence during periods of social change and stress. I doubt it was completely coincidence that psychedelic drugs burst into public view during the turmoil of the Sixties. Or that they’re undergoing a resurgence in the midst of a COVID pandemic.

Will it last? Once again, we’ll have to wait and see.