They got all hopped up smoking toad venom and “died” — and now they’re high and mighty about being “reborn.”
Up until recently, hallucinogenic toad venom was associated with underground thrill seekers, but the so-called psychotropic snake oil has become increasingly mainstream as celebrities like boxing icon Mike Tyson, controversial fine artist Hunter Biden and HGTV flipper Christina Haack preach about its mind-expanding effects.
The ring legend recently described how the drug caused him to “die” and be “reborn.”
“I ‘died’ during my first trip,” the 55-year-old former heavyweight champ told The Post earlier this week, describing a psychedelic metamorphosis. “In my trips, I’ve seen that death is beautiful.”
His cathartic sensation stems from one of the world’s most powerful psychoactive compounds — 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) — which is derived from a toxin that the Bufo alvarius, a Mexico amphibian otherwise known as the Sonoran Desert toad, secretes as a fear tactic to deter predators.
Also known as the “God molecule,” the chemical has been touted by its devotees in wellness circles as a cure for everything from drug addiction to mental illnesses.
And they’re not just hopping mad: This past summer, Oxford-based startup Beckley Psytech raised $80 million to speed up clinical trials to determine the compound’s efficacy at treating depression, Business Wire reported.
But the drug, which is a Schedule 1 classified substance, isn’t fun and games for everyone, like comedian Chelsea Handler who said she thought she would “pass away” after a hit.
While the jury’s still out about whether 5-MeO-DMT is a cure-all, Tyson is not the only votary of venom with a ribbet-ing story about being “reborn.”
Many believe that drugs negatively impacted Iron Mike in the past. However, the boxing icon claims that a toad-verdose saved his life — by “killing” him.
Tyson revealed he tried 5-MeO-DMT on a “dare” several years ago when he was 100 pounds overweight and hooked on drugs and alcohol, describing his metamorphosis earlier in November at Wonderland, a Miami conference dedicated to psychedelics, micro-dosing and medicine.
“In my trips, I’ve seen that death is beautiful,” the Brownsville, Texas, native described. “Life and death both have to be beautiful, but death has a bad rep.”
“The toad has taught me that I’m not going to be here forever. There’s an expiration date,” added Kid Dynamite, who has reportedly tripped 53 times — sometimes multiple times per day.
The boxing phenom has since recounted his revelatory envenomation on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which has become something of a forum for recounting celebrity psychedelic experiences.
Since undergoing his perspective-altering regimen, Tyson has lost 100 pounds in three months, started boxing again and reconnected with his wife and children.
He also attributes the transformation to 5-MeO-DMT stripping his “ego” and making him more “creative” and focused.
“I’m more present as a businessman and entrepreneur,” said the boxer, who currently tours the country espousing the virtues of this alleged hallucinogenic holy grail.
It may sound like Tyson’s tripping, but his description of the drug’s effects jives with expert analysis.
Dr. Mike Dow, a psychology doctorate who practices psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy at Field Trip Health, told Instyle: “There’s still more research to be done to truly understand how 5-MeO-DMT works, but as a tryptamine (like psilocybin and LSD) it can create a sense of unity, euphoria, and ego dissolution.”
Meanwhile, like Tyson, many users say the afterglow of a toad venom trip can trigger them to make major life changes.
“I immediately broke up with my long-term boyfriend,” New York City tripper Barrett Pall told The Post. The Soho-based life coach and influencer, who also booked a trip around the world and decided to reconnect with his estranged father, added, “I was just so sure that everything I was deciding was right.”
Christina Haack, host of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” turned a frog into a prince after revealing that she met her new boyfriend, realtor Joshua Hall, after smoking the trippy toxin.
“I met Josh when I wasn’t in a state of fear or fight-or-flight,” the 38-year-old reality TV star wrote in a July Instagram post. “I had taken time off social, hired a spiritual coach and smoked a Bufo toad (which basically reset my brain and kicked out years of anxiety in 15 mins).”
Haack likely didn’t literally toke the toad as 5-MeO-DMT is extracted by “milking” the toad’s venom glands, then drying the secretions into a paste — although it’s increasingly being manufactured synthetically in the lab amid fears that its psychedelic status is driving the species to extinction, Euro News reported.
However, her experience of a mental reset is corroborated by other hallucinogenic voyagers, who describe 5-MeO-DMT as the most potent psychedelic on the planet with blissful effects that begin right after ingestion and last for 15 to 20 minutes.
“There’s a reason why 5-MeO-DMT can reset one’s brain and help one overcome years of anxiety in 15 minutes,” said Martin W. Ball, Ph.D., who hosts the Entheogenic Evolution podcast. “It’s the most monumental, and potentially worldview and identity-shattering experience a person can have.”
Chelsea Handler said she’s tried it all — including doing Ayahuasca on camera for a Netflix show — but she said her toad venom trip was more terror-inducing than revelatory.
In her “Evolution” special, Handler said she was attending a silent retreat in the woods of Topanga Canyon when she approached revelers prepping for a toad trip.
“I said, ‘Let’s party.’ She said, ’It’s not really that kind of drug,’ and I’m ‘Listen b—ch, I’ll decide what kind of drug it is,’” she recalled. “She said it’s ‘transcendental,’ that’s the word she used, so I was already bored.”
Handler then said took a hit from a “little crack pipe or whatever,” and that’s where it went downhill.
“It’s immediately terrible — like the most terrible thing. Dark swirly greens and purples it was like I was on a rollercoaster and my head was in a vice and I couldn’t move… And I was like ‘Oh, oh, oh you’re gonna pass away today,’” she said. “And then I’m like don’t be so dramatic you’re not gonna pass away you’ve already received some brain damage.”
She said she was “sweating” and “hyperventilating” and that’s when she knew she wanted out.
“When I couldn’t wait anymore, I was like ‘You have to make this stop! I’m in a matrix,’” she said in the special. “Finally, I start to come out of it and I was, first of all, embarrassed because I was nude and that I had just lost complete control.”
The former “Chelsea Lately” host also recalled the awful incident to the Hollywood Reporter in 2019.
“I was immediately drenched in sweat feeling as sick as I’ve ever felt,” she said. “I went to open my eyes to focus because I was spinning and I thought, ‘This isn’t good, I don’t like this.’”
According to Handler, the woman told her to “‘Just keep breathing.’ And I’m like, ‘You need to hold my hand.’ It was super-intense and then it was over after three minutes of panic and I said, ‘OK, I’m alive.’”
A cautionary tale
Moments like Handler’s are common when smoking toad venom, according to the Addiction Center, which notes that many users are “unable to move and lack awareness of their surroundings” after puffing the frog.
Indeed, despite the purported health benefits, experts caution against recreationally using the compound, which is categorized in the US as a Schedule 1 classified substance that carries a ten-year prison sentence for possession.
“It’s such an intense experience that, in most cases, doing it at a party isn’t safe,” said Dr. Alan K. Davis, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the Psychedelic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University.
“If people get dosed too high, they can ‘white out’ and disassociate from their mind and body,” he added.
Others can experience vomiting and anxiety for days afterward, while some end up in the emergency room.
But, it hasn’t stopped the elite from seeking healing. President Joe Biden’s wayward progeny swears by the drug. In his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” Hunter Biden, 51, described toad venom as a “salve” that helped him kick his crack cocaine habit.
“I know it sounds loopy,” he wrote of its “Limitless”-evoking effects. “Yet whatever else it did or didn’t do, the experience unlocked feelings and hurts I’d buried deep for too long.”
When it comes to toad venom, Diplo is apparently in the mile “high” club. The 43-year-old “Close To Me” DJ claimed he used 5-MeO-DMT to calm his nerves after the window on his private jet cracked during a terrifying 2019 flight to Ohio.
“Dear Colombus and Minneapolis, my jet window just cracked open and the pilots are wearing masks so not sure ill make my shows tonight but they left the wifi on so I’m just going to sit in the back and smoke toad venom and Vlog,” wrote Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz, on Instagram.
Thankfully, the plane landed safely following the scare — although whether Diplo actually embarked on said plane “trip” is still unclear.
Unfortunately, not every Bufo toad venom fatality was figurative or transformative. In March, Spanish porn actor Nacho Vidal was charged with the murder of fashion photographer Jose Luis Abad, who died after inhaling Bufo toad vapors.
The skin-flick star had allegedly administered Abad the venom during a 2019 shamanic ritual in the hopes that it would cure his cocaine addiction.
Meanwhile, prior investigations had found that the toad venom ceremonies were being carried out on a regular basis. Vidal, who has appeared in more than 100 pornographic pictures, even previously promoted the mind-altering substance on YouTube, according to Spanish newspaper El País, as reported in Rolling Stone.
A dangerous trend?
Despite the dangers, Sonoran Desert toad venom is becoming increasingly en vogue among young New Yorkers, who score the rare resin by hiring shamans who illegally collect toads for their use in the drug trade — which the Addiction Center says is a “threat to the species.” These so-called healers then distribute it at ceremonies throughout the US, charging $200 to $500 per person.
Pall, who attended one such ceremony, described his trip to The Post as 45 minutes of “shooting through the universe” and “being reborn.”
“My life has never been the same since,” he said.
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