Old Wives’ Tales: The truth behind toad licking


This fortnight, our resident old wife Alison Lee delves into the slimy world of toad licking to see what highs or lows they bring

Substance abuse exists in many bizarre guises, but licking toads to get high has to be one of the weirdest. This practice has featured in both The Simpsons and Family Guy – but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

The toad most famed for its hallucinogenic secretions is the Sonoran Desert Toad of California, Arizona and Mexico, Bufo alvarius. The venom of this animal was analysed in 1965 and contains bufotenine. This is widely considered a hallucinogenic substance, mostly due to one ‘scientific study’ conducted in 1950 when a medical doctor named Howard Fabing injected it into inmates of Ohio State Penitentiary. One prisoner experienced breathing difficulties and nausea. He then vomited, collapsed and reported three minutes of hallucinations.

Subsequent experiments couldn’t replicate these findings and it has been concluded that bufotenine isn’t actually hallucinogenic so what component of toad venom is? The answer is simple 5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine! Let’s just call it 5-MeO-DMT. This is one of nature’s most potent hallucinogenics,

However, licking a toad for a hit doesn’t work, as this compound is inactivated by the digestive system. Another reason that licking toads may be a bad move is that they are pretty toxic. Children have occasionally been hospitalised after contact with these creatures, and there have been several reports of pet dogs dropping dead after licking or sniffing them. So if you want to experience an amphibious high, you have to smoke the venom instead.

Handy instructions on how exactly to do this can be found in the pamphlet “Bufo alvarius, Psychadelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert”, published in 1984 by Albert Most, Founder of the Church of the Toad Of Light.

Firstly, take a Sonoran Desert Toad, and hold it against a glass plate. Massage the glands located on its neck, tibia, femurs and forearms until they secrete a milky substance onto the glass. Then wait until the venom dries, scrape it into an airtight container (any standard Tupperware lunchbox should do the trick). Then just keep it until you feel like indulging in a bit of a cosmic hippy high.

It’s likely that toads were used in religious rites of the Aztecs and Mayans as they are commonly depicted in these people’s sacred artworks. But the risks involved are considerable, and it’s unlikely the poor toads enjoy it either. Thus this old wife recommends you steer clear of the particular natural high in question. Just because Homer did it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.