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Friday, November 19, 2004

Psychedelic Sydney: Australians may "trip" over toads in more ways than one.

See this toad? I was looking over the stories on the Oddly Enough section of Yahoo! News and came across this lil' item about how this species - the cane toad - is swarming all over Sydney. Being overrun by a Biblical plague is bad enough, but our friends Down Under had better pray that the cane toad's other "properties" stay off the radar. Or else Australia threatens to become the Haight-Ashbury of the South Pacific...

Ground 'Moves' as Cane Toads Invade Park

Fri Nov 19, 9:21 AM ET
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of poisonous baby cane toads invaded an Australian national park Friday, hopping around in such numbers that the ground seemed to move, an ecologist said.

The ugly amphibians moved into the Arakwal National Park near one of the country's famous surfing meccas, Byron Bay, following an explosion in toad numbers after recent rains.

"You should see the ground down there, it is just black and it is just moving, it is a seething mass of young cane toads, it looks like the ground is moving," local ecologist Steve Phillips told Australian radio.
Park officials plan to destroy as many of the toads as possible before they grow into adults, hoping that once numbers are reduced the threatened wallum froglet and wallum sedge frog populations will pick up.

Cane toads are one of Australia's worst environmental pests.

They were introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935 to stop the French Cane Beetle and Greyback Cane Beetle from destroying sugar cane crops in the northeastern state of Queensland.


While cane toads will eat anything and appear easy prey for larger animals, they possess highly poisonous sacs behind their heads which kill predators quickly.

What this Reuters story from Yahoo! neglected to mention was that the Aussies have a potentially bigger problem on their hands than just the cane toad's vast numbers. Here's where the real fun begins...

The poison secreted by the cane toad's glands spreads throughout its body and is very permeable through its skin. In other words, the entire cane toad becomes a poison pill, with a toxin strong enough to kill most enemies of the toad that are relative to its size by mere contact. It's even been known to injure and kill larger animals like dogs that happen to eat the toads. So you'd think that most rationale human beings would known enough to leave the cane toad alone, right?


Turns out that the cane frog is a natural producer of the chemical bufotenine, and it's one of the poison's components. Bufotenine is also a powerful hallucinogenic drug: if your body manages to intake enough of it (usually a small amount) you'll experience an effect very similar to what would happen if you took a drop of LSD. It's similar to mescaline in that both drugs are also found naturally in certain mushrooms (like peyote) that have been used for centuries by Native Americans of North and South America for religious rituals, including the modern-day Native American Church. "Your people go into your churches and talk to Jesus," one practitioner told a white Christian after a long night of the peyote ritual: "our people go into our teepees and we see Jesus!"

The upshot of all of this is, bufotenine is considered a controlled substance. Court cases have upheld Native American rights to use such hallucinogens in religious ceremonies, but otherwise the general public isn't supposed to have access to bufotenine. In fact, possession of bufotenine is considered highly illegal.

Possession of a cane toad, however, is very legal.

Take a wild guess where this is going. Or if you've figured it out, take a wild guess how exactly the bufotenine is extracted from the cane frog by people who want to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

It's been documented for years, but most people still (and for good reason) either haven't heard or can't accept that such a thing as toad-licking goes on in this world. It's really pretty simple: if you want to "trip out" on bufotenine you merely pick up your handy-dandy cane toad and lick its back (supposedly the REAL buzz comes from applying your moist wet tongue to the very top and rear of the toad's head). The poison secreted from the toad's skin enters your body via the capillaries of your tongue and from there the toxin - and the bufotenine it contains - makes its way to your brain and nervous system.

Sounds crazy... but it got so bad for awhile that even the generally strange People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemned the practice. Although their concern wasn't so much for human safety as it was for the toads': "We find LSD is a much better animal free alternative," a PETA spokeslady said. "We know the toad licking lobby is powerful, but the message needs to be heard." To which one toad-licker replied: "LSD just doesn't give as intense hallucinations as toad licking. PETA can take my toad away when they tear it from my cold dead lips."

In other words, the Australians are going to have a massive drug abuse crisis on their hands if people over there are as dumb (which judging from the Aussies I've met isn't very likely) as the ones in America tend to be and start licking these things. But on the bright side of things: since you CAN legally own a cane toad and do whatever you want to with it, I think the Australians should make the best of a bad situation and start up a massive industry cultivating and exporting these things all over the world. They could make jillions of dollars from this, could become the Southern Hemisphere's answer to Afghanistan's opium trade... and it would all be legit!

All that said though, I still feel more than a little conflicted about putting my mouth to a toad to suck on its skin.


Tsathoggua said...

I'm not an ozzy, I'm a brit, and we don't have a plague of these toads here, but I know a fair bit about them, and have tried bufotenine, extracted from a plant source.

There are a couple of things to be aware of however-There is a similar phenomenon in america, where the sonoran desert toad, Bufo alvarius is found, which produces 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in addition to bufotenin.

The other thing, is that the toads should NOT be licked. The venom of both species is packed with some quite potent steroidal cardiotoxins which act similarly to digitalis (foxglove, a heart medicine) or ouabain (G-strophanthin, from the somalian arrow poison waabaayo).

The parotid venom glands of the toad are to be squeezed gently, and the venom squirted collected on something such as a piece of glass, where it can be scraped from, it will resemble partially dried rubber cement. Thus must then be smoked, preferably vaporised, avoiding a direct flame, such as in a lightbulb pipe, or from foil, as meth or heroin are smoked respectively, the former is a better technique for vaporising tryptamines, it is very hard to break through and get a proper inhalation from foil.

Oral use of this drug is DANGEROUS, it must be smoked, which leaves the poisonous cardiac steroids behind/burns them. Eating the toad secretion or licking it, is asking for cardiac arrythmia.

My experience with bufotenine was from snorting the freebase, chemically extracted from yopo beans, Anadenanthera colubrina, known in the amazon as yopo, cebil, or cohoba, depending on the tribe and area. It seems to produce significant pressor effects, although it is indeed an active psychedelic drug. An interesting experience I will likely someday repeat.

I am experienced with other psychedelic drugs of various kinds, bufotenine seems to be possessed of significant bodyload.