The Colorado River toad—a.k.a. the Sonoran Desert toad—is flat and squat. To the layman, no distinctive markings adorn its swampy olive skin. A passerby may remark upon its large size, the toad does little to draw attention to itself. And yet, for an animal so easy to miss or ignore, the amphibian harbors an unusual secret: The Colorado River toad is the only animal source of “the God molecule”—5-MeO-DMT.
5-MeO DMT: Sonoran Desert Toad Venom, Synthetic Psychedelic, Plant Medicine, or All Three?
5-MeO-DMT is a potent psychedelic found within the excretion of the Colorado River toad (Bufo alvarius or Incilius alvarius). Although, it’s also present in some plants and can be made synthetically—the latter being the most sustainable way to consume the entheogen. It belongs to a class of chemical compounds called tryptamines, which include psilocybin and DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine).
In the United States, the Colorado River toad is one of the most common and controversial sources of 5-MeO-DMT. Its native habitat runs along the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The controversy comes from the ethics of harvesting toad venom: Even if the toad is caught and released, harvesting venom may introduce pathogens to the toad and also weaken its ability to fend off predators, which can threaten the toad’s life and may decrease the species population. Conservationists also warn against habitat destruction as more would-be psychonauts seek out the toad for its intoxicating venom.
The oldest known uses of 5-MeO-DMT are not associated with toad venom at all. The chemical is a natural constituent in Anadenanthera peregrina (Yopo) seeds and Virola bark, which hail from South America and are used to make entheogenic snuff. Both plant-based and synthetic 5-MeO are viable alternatives to toad venom. Although, the rise in popularity of yopo may also come with its own sustainability issues—increased global trade of entheogenic plants and psychedelic tourism have the potential to negatively impact Amazonian communities if such activities are performed in an extractive or appropriative way. As such, it’s important to pay attention to how yopo is sourced and whether or not reciprocal capital and resources actually flow back into the communities from which it originally came.
5-MeO-DMT Trip: How Long Does It Last?
5-MeO-DMT produces an intense but short psychedelic experience. A full dose 5-MeO-DMT trip lasts between 30 and 90 minutes at most, and the majority are even significantly shorter than that. However, while the time on the clock may tick away quickly for those on the outside world, it certainly doesn’t for those in the middle of the psychedelic experience.
During a 5-MeO-DMT trip, it’s not uncommon for consumers to feel like they’ve transcended time. A 5-MeO-DMT trip is strong enough to take participants out of normal consciousness, into a state of temporary unconsciousness, with ego death making room for therapeutic exploration of the subconscious or an encounter with the divine. For this reason, a trip sitter plays an important role in monitoring the participant while they’re on their journey.
5-MeO-DMT Average Dosage
The average dosage of 5-MeO-DMT is small compared to many other psychedelics. Researchers report that five to seven milligrams are enough to occasion a moderate to strong experience. Those using toad secretion rather than synthetic 5-MeO-DMT often take doses of up to 50 milligrams. It’s risky, however, for new consumers to start with such a dose, which may be overwhelming and more likely to cause negative reactions.
How Do You Take 5-MeO-DMT?
5-MeO-DMT is most often inhaled through a vaporization device. Both synthesized 5-MeO-DMT and powdered toad venom comes in a crystallized or viscous form, and they’re often smoked using a high-heat pipe or rig. The active effects kick in within a mere couple of seconds after inhalation, causing consumers to lose their sense of motor control and retreat inward into the depths of their own consciousness.
Extracting 5-MeO-DMT from Yopo
Seeds from the Anadenanthera peregrina (Yopo) tree naturally contain 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin, and DMT in their seed pods. All three compounds are psychoactive, although DMT is not orally active on its own. Yopo seed pods were historically mixed with other botanicals to create a snuff used by indigenous cultures in the Orinoco basin, which spans the northern part of South America. It’s likely the combination of different plants that aided in the psychoactivity of Yopo snuff. Although, yopo can also be used in Ayahuasca brews, which historically can contain many different plants and may not always follow one homogenous recipe.
Today, some psychonauts attempt to use yopo seed as a base in the extraction of purified 5-MeO-DMT, which is performed using a series of solvents. However, it’s important to note that the Yopo seed contains many different chemical constituents, and most simple extractions remove more than simply DMT analogs. The safety and efficacy of concentrating these additional plant compounds is unknown. Additionally, residual solvent can remain in the final extract if the extraction is not properly conducted, which may be harmful if smoked or consumed, depending on the solvents used in the extraction. Extracting 5-MeO-DMT is illegal in the United States and many countries.
5-MeO-DMT vs. DMT
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the active chemical component in ayahuasca, famously dubbed “the spirit molecule.” It’s what thousands of tourists seek out during psychedelic pilgrimages to Latin America every year. DMT can also be smoked on its own, occasioning a more rapid, intense trip than the hours-long ayahuasca experience.
5-MeO-DMT is Different
It’s a derivative of DMT, meaning that they are related compounds. But, the two can produce different experiential and physiological effects. 5-MeO is often considered to be stronger than DMT, and consumers often report that it inspires a potent transcendent experience—devoid of visuals—rather than a highly visual experience, such as what DMT is known for.
The “God Molecule” and Mystical Experiences
5-MeO-DMT is called “the God Molecule” for a simple and yet astounding reason: It can make one feel as if they are speaking to, connected with, or becoming one with the divine. Like many other psychedelics, 5-MeO-DMT is an entheogen. An entheogen is a chemical compound that can trigger mystical experiences—feelings of intense spirituality.
But you need not be religious or spiritual to have an entheogenic experience with 5-MeO-DMT (or any psychedelic for that matter). Every person’s individual experience is unique, and “God” is merely one word to describe the connection that the drug seems to make possible. Instead of “God,” others may prefer terms like Brahman, Nirvana, Gaia, Nature, Universal Consciousness, Higher Power, or none at all. Whatever term they use, each person’s experience is ultimately different, and the meaning and interpretation of that experience is up to the individual.
The idea that spirituality can be chemically triggered is one that many may find uncomfortable. But, as scientists probe into the mysterious world of psychedelics, many studies are finding exactly that: Psychedelics can inspire intense mystical experiences, similar to spontaneous religious epiphanies and spiritual revelations. Like religious or spiritual epiphanies, these chemically-induced experiences can be life-changing—and often correlate with the magnitude of healing the subject may experience for whatever indication they are aiming to treat with the psychedelic.
Indeed, some of the core tenants of a mystical experience include a deep-rooted feeling of unity and interconnectedness with the world around you, as well as profound feelings of joy, transcendence of time and space, and feelings of importance beyond the scope of the self. Psychedelic mystical experiences can be particularly profound because they can inspire a sense that this interconnectedness is reality, that this experience is the natural state of the world—the experience can have an inherent truth that extends beyond what words can describe.
In 2011, researchers used psilocybin to test the long-term impact of psychedelic therapy on personality changes in adults; psilocybin is the active constituent in magic mushrooms (sometimes simply called shrooms). In general, personality is considered relatively set after adults reach the age of 30. But, in this particular study, researchers found that psilocybin could inspire “lasting personality changes” for over a year after treatment.
And these changes were positive. After high-dose psilocybin therapy, participants who achieved a “mystical experience”—defined by specific criteria put forth by psychedelic scientists—left the study with higher marks of openness than they had upon arrival. “Openness” consists of a collection of personality traits, that includes a willingness to try new experiences, tolerance of others’ viewpoints, the appreciation of aesthetic qualities, and more.
Other studies found that psychedelic experiences have reduced depression and anxiety, aided in trauma therapy for post-traumatic stress, and even had positive impacts in reducing alcoholic addictions and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. But, the majority of these studies were performed on more common psychedelics, like psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ketamine.
Now, researchers are testing the ability of 5-MeO-DMT to occasion similar results—and they’ve had small successes thus far. Recently, scientists proved that the toad molecule indeed can inspire mystical experiences, and may even hold potential as a more manageable therapy tool than psilocybin and LSD.
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Of course, not every person will have such an awe-inspiring interaction with the drug. It’s even possible to have a challenging experience—one that’s uncomfortable, traumatizing, and even unsafe. Unlike your average medicine, there is no regulation nor substantive clinical research that provide guidance about how to use 5-MeO-DMT, while scientists also have not extensively looked into whether or not certain people may face considerable physical and mental health risks when trying the compound.
Therapeutic Research on 5-MeO-DMT
In recent years, 5-MeO-DMT has garnered some attention among the scientific community. The chemical compound is particularly intriguing to those interested in psychedelic therapy. The 5-MeO-DMT experience can inspire profound experiences, but in a very short time span—less than half an hour! By comparison, a psilocybin or LSD experience can last upward of six hours. But research on the psychoactive is only just beginning. Nevertheless, the following is a brief summary of what researchers have discovered thus far:
5-MeO-DMT and Alcoholism
In 2018, researchers with the Crossroads Treatment Center in Tijuana, Mexico presented a case study for the combined use of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT in the treatment of alcoholism. In their case study, a 42-year-old man was able to remain sober for one month after treatment, returning to mild alcohol use two months after treatment. The patient did report reduced cravings and desire to drink alcohol following the treatment.
5-MeO-DMT and Depression and Anxiety
In March of 2019, researchers from John Hopkins University surveyed 362 adults who used 5-MeO-DMT. They found that 80 percent of participants reported improvements in depression and anxiety after use.
5-MeO-DMT and Mindfulness
In a 2019 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, researchers reported that a single dose of 5-MeO-DMT increased feelings of mindfulness, satisfaction with life, and decreased feelings of anxiety and depression. These positive effects were still noticeable four weeks after treatment. The 5-MeO-DMT was administered to 42 participants in a naturalistic and community-oriented setting.
5-MeO-DMT and Neurogenesis
In 2018, Brazilian and Swedish researchers teamed up to test the effects of 5-MeO-DMT on neurogenesis in adult mice. Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons in the brain—a process that generally slows down in adulthood. The scientists wanted to test the effects of the hallucinogen on neuron growth in a particular area of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with new memory formation and can be affected in depression. The researchers discovered that a single dose of 5-MeO-DMT stimulated neurogenesis in this brain region, resulting in new neuronal connections. They speculate that this is one of the sources of 5-MeO-DMT’s antidepressant effects.
Like many other compounds from psychoactive plants and animals, 5-MeO-DMT is generally considered a toxin. Death and paralysis are common among dogs and other animals who eat the Colorado River toad, which produces its venom to deter predators. This particular species is actually responsible for the majority of amphibian-based poisonings among pets. But that being said, humans are certainly different than dogs and cats.
The toxicology of 5-MeO-DMT in humans is less studied. Given the limited research available thus far, small doses of 5-MeO-DMT are thought to be relatively safe and carry a low potential for addiction. But it’s important to keep in mind that a lack of research does not equate to a lack of risk. (On the flip side, a lack of research also doesn’t equate to definitive danger. It simply means this: We don’t know.) Psychedelic advocates are often quick to tout the benefits of these impressive substances—they’ve been a part of many cultures for centuries, after all, an important fact to keep in mind. But, it’s also important to remember that these substances are potent and powerful, and there’s still a lot to discover about when they’re safe and when they’re not—especially when they’re used at a mainstream scale or repeatedly over an extended period of time.
So, here are some of the potential concerns: Many health professionals have concerns about psychedelic use among those who are predisposed to psychosis and other mental health ailments. In addition, very little information is available about potential drug interactions between 5-MeO-DMT and common pharmaceutical drugs. Many consumers who experiment with psychedelics do so with the belief that entheogens may help with recovery from pre-existing mental health ailments, like trauma, depression, addiction, and anxiety. Yet, it is of vital importance to use extreme caution if you are already taking medication for these ailments. Potential drug interactions are likely, and, indeed, there have been reported cases of bad interactions between certain types of antidepressant drugs—namely MAOIs—and 5-MeO-DMT.
Combining 5-MeO-DMT with other substances is not recommended unless you’re under medical supervision. There is a potential risk of developing serotonin syndrome, which can cause seizures and even death as the body is flooded with too much of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It’s therefore risky to mix with drugs like MDMA, ecstasy, LSD, and others that also act on the serotonin system. Tryptamines like 5-MeO may also have an effect on the cardiovascular system, which means that those with pre-existing heart conditions may experience undeserved complications with the entheogen.
Prohibition presents another risk inherent in psychedelics like 5-MeO-DMT. In Mexico, centers like Crossroads Treatment Center distribute the psychedelic under expert and medical supervision. But those buying illicitly in the United States, Europe, China, and elsewhere face considerable risk when buying off of the black market. The biggest problem? Knowing that you’re actually getting what you believe you’ve purchased. While it can be difficult, it is of the utmost importance to vet your source as much as possible. For the sake of harm reduction, it’s important to compare what you’ve purchased with images available on the internet and to ask the provider if they themselves have tested on themselves the same batch of what they’re selling.
Bottom line? It’s important to follow the golden rule of psychedelics: Start low, go slow, test first.
Is 5-MeO-DMT Legal?
The short answer: It depends on where you are. Given that 5-MeO-DMT is a fairly novel psychedelic, many countries do not have laws governing its production or distribution. Thus far, its usage is not restricted in Canada or Mexico. But, several countries have gone as far as to list the hallucinogen as a controlled substance, including the United States. 5-MeO-DMT is illegal in the United States, China, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, and several European countries.
Disclaimer: This article has not been reviewed by a medical professional. It is intended for harm reduction and informational purposes only and is not intended to promote illegal activity.
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