ADVISORY WARNING: In recent years, growing demand for bufo (5-MeO-DMT as it occurs in toad venom) in the psychedelic community has placed an enormous strain on the Bufo alvarius toad (aka Sonoran Desert Toad, Colorado River Toad) (Carpenter, 2020). The species is currently threatened and conservation efforts are underway to have the species formally classified as endangered. The toads are routinely captured and harassed as part of the process of gathering their venom. Techniques for gathering venom are often extremely unethical and inhumane, involving cruelty and injury to the toads. For these reasons, PEx strongly advises against the use of bufo. As alternatives, synthetic 5-MEO-DMT or natural 5-MEO-DMT in plant form (e.g. yopo snuff) offer an extremely similar experience without the negative aspects of animal abuse and the ongoing issues surrounding conservation and sustainability.
Furthermore, there have been numerous recent reports of abuse and unethical behavior involving prominent bufo administrators and self-titled shamans. These reports are wide-ranging and involve multiple individuals. The severity includes rape, sexual harassment, violence, and death. The two specific facilitators named in these allegations are Dr. Octavio Rettig and Dr. Gerry Sandoval. You can read an open letter from the entheogenic community describing the allegations here. For an excellent article written by our friends at EntheoNation, go here.
What is 5-MeO-DMT?
5-MeO-DMT is a psychedelic compound in the tryptamine family. It is chemically related to DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine), but is 4-6 stronger in terms of potency. 5-MeO-DMT can be synthetically produced in a lab setting. It is also found naturally in many type of plants and trees, as well as the venom of the bufo alvarius toad (Sonoran Desert Toad).
What is the 5-MeO-DMT experience like?
5-MeO-DMT is usually insufflated (snorted), vaporized, or smoked. The onset of the experience is relatively quick, within 1-15 minutes of ingestion. The experience typically lasts around 3o minutes, and is characterized by its extreme intensity. Participants report out-of-body experiences, “white outs” and vivid visual effects.
A Brief History of 5-MeO-DMT
In indigenous cultures of Central and South America, the most common form of 5-MeO-DMT is found in two plants, Anadenanthera peregrina (yopo or cohoba) and Virola theiodora. The plants are grown and harvested to produce a psychoactive snuff, which is snorted. In snuff form, 5-Meo-DMT has been used in traditional shamanic rituals and practices. There is no evidence of the bufo alvarius toad being used in this traditional way, however. Due to ethical issues relating to animal rights and sustainability in connection with the harvesting of bufo, PEx supports the use of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT or plant-based 5-MeO-DMT, rather than bufo.
In terms of general safety, there are several physical and psychological risks attached to 5-MeO-DMT.
5-MeO-DMT should never be combined with MAOIs (including ayahuasca), or with beta-carbolines, as there are multiple cases where death occurred when combining bufo or other sources of 5-MeO-DMT with these other substances (Sklerov, Levine, Moore et al., 2005;). 5-MeO-DMT should not be combined with prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or some herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort. Some studies indicate the possibility for hyperthermia when ingesting 5-MeO-DMT (Jiang, Shen & Yu, 2015).
There are also psychological risks involved with 5-MeO-DMT. Many participants report the experience to be extremely intense and potentially overwhelming, with frequent “white outs” and episodes of memory loss that make it potentially difficult to integrate the experience. There are anecdotal reports of persistent anxiety, paranoia, and sleep disorders after a single dose. It is important to pay attention to dosage, set, setting, and sitter. Check out the PEx general guide to psychedelic safety for more recommendations and tips.
Structurally, 5-MEO-DMT is similar to DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine), and it functions through the serotonergic system. The molecule has a strong binding affinity with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor subtype (Shen, Jiang, Winter & Yu, 2010). Unlike DMT, however, 5-MEO-DMT has a methoxy group in the R5 position. It is thought that 5-MEO-DMT may also interact with noradrenaline and dopamine uptake inhibition, in addition to serotonin.
Although research into 5-MeO-DMT is currently limited, there is some evidence that it can help treat anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and depression (Roger, 2016). The compound has also been used in conjunction with ibogaine treatment as part of an integration protocol (Thoricatha. 2015). A recent study indicates that 5-MeO-DMT causes major downregulation of the mGluR5 receptor, which is involved in addiction and substance abuse (Dakic et al., 2017). The finding implies that 5-MeO-DMT may have significant potential for the treatment of addiction.
There is also evidence that 5-MeO-DMT can be effectively used to treat acute and chronic inflammation, with further potential as an anti-cancer medication (Szabo et al, 2014; dos Santos et al., 2016; Szabo, 2015; Riba, n.d.).