The Sonoran Desert Toad


Bufo alvarius


Bufo Toads and Bufotenine: Fact and Fiction Surrounding an Alleged Psychedelic
by T. Lyttle; D. Goldstein; J. Gartz
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Vol. 28 (3): 267-290

This paper investigates the supposedly psychedelic Bufo toad and the allegedly psychedelic drug bufotenine, which is contained in the skin and glands of this toad. The bufo toad has held a place in human mythologies and medicines worldwide since archaic times. Used by ancient peoples for a variety of purposes, its most spectacular effects, according to lore, involve magical and shamanic or occult uses for casting spells and for divination. In the Middle Ages, the Bufo toad was celebrated as a panacea and persecuted as a powerful poison. More recently, in the 1960s the Bufo toad was resurrected as a countercultural icon, with people purportedly licking or smoking the secretions to get high. Bufotenine has been at the center of a scientific debate since its discovery in 1893. This paper examines the extensive literature surrounding the Bufo toad and bufotenine, and untangles many of the myths and the misinformation that continue to vex both science and popular reporting. Finally, to promote further investigation, a comprehensive bibliography is provided that charts the history of the Bufo toad and bufotenine. 

See also what Jonathan Ott has to say about bufotenine. And Thomas Lyttle defends his paper's findings against Ott's criticism.


Bufotenine: Toward an Understanding of Possible Psychoactive Mechanisms
by Michael C. McBride, B.S.Phr., R.Ph.
in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. July-September, 2000; 32 (3): 321-331.

A review of the neuropharmacology of the alleged hallucinogen bufotenine is presented, including recent experimental results showing activity similar to LSD and other known hallucinogens (psilocin and 5-MeO-DMT) at the purported hallucinogenic serotonin (5-HT) receptors, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C. In addition, current reports of computer modeling of the receptors and ligand binding sites give evidence of bufotenine's ability to bind and activate these receptors. While binding and activation of the purported hallucinogenic receptors are not the full extent of the hallucinogenic signature, this evidence shows support for the rationale that the reported lack of the drug's classic hallucinogenic response in human experiments is due to poor ability to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), not lack of activation of the appropriate brain receptors. Further evidence is reviewed that in some physiological states, some drugs with characteristics similar to bufotenine which do not normally cross the BBB, cross it and enter the brain. While direct human experimental evidence of bufotenine's hallucinogenic activity seems lacking, the above combined factors are considered, and possible explanations of bufotenine's reported psychoactivity are suggested. Additionally, updated experimental models testing the possible nature of bufotenine's hallucinogenic potential are proposed.

This author proposes some pretty outrageous ideas, so I sent him the following letter. (Unfortunately, I haven't received any reply): 

Michael C. McBride
4652 Thanksgiving Lane
Plano, TX 75024

June 21, 2001

Dear Mr. McBride:

I just finished reading your article, Bufotenine: Toward an Understanding of Possible Psychoactive Mechanisms in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. July_September, 2000; 32 (3): 321_331.

I am very interested to learn if anyone has informed you that they have smoked the venom of Bufo marinus, or used it in an enema, as you suggest in your paper. If so, what results have been obtained? I hope you wonít mind sharing this information with me.

As you know, there is much confusion surrounding the topic of a psychoactive toad. My understanding regarding the B. marinus is that it can be very toxic, even to man. If its venom is in fact smokeable, as is the venom of B. alvarius, this is very important information indeed. However, if its venom is NOT smokeable because itís unsafe - this is even more important to know.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you will find the time to respond. 


Albert Most


See also what Jonathan Ott has to say about bufotenine.