Monsoon brings back Sonoran Desert toad, increase in people using animal as drug

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 7:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Monsoon is here, and with the storms also comes the return of the Sonoran Desert Frog.

Also known as the Colorado River Toad, the amphibian often hides underground. But come summer, the rain from monsoon creates the perfect breeding conditions for the toads.

We’ll also hear more of their croaks with the monsoon in full swing.

“They will come out and stay out during the time of the monsoons,” said Cressi Brown, founder and executive director of “Once the monsoons are over, they will dig back underground, and we won’t see them until next year.”

During their time above ground, the Sonoran Desert Toad can pose quite a risk to pets, but only if the toads feel threatened. Secreting bufotoxins from its glands, the toad even has the ability to kill a dog.

“Be aware that the dog is not going to have any ill effects just by being in the vicinity of the toad,” says Brown.

“The problem comes when the dog actually puts the toad in its mouth.”

While posing a danger for our furry friends, some people use the toad as a drug.

The toad contains a compound called 5-MeO-DMT. Causing strong hallucinations, a person only experiences about 20 minutes of the drug’s effect. However, the drug is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the US, making it illegal.

However, increasing participation in spiritual practices has led to increased use of the toad’s compound to get high.

“We’re running into a lot of new age spirituality and what we’re finding is a lot of groups are harvesting these animals and using their 5-MeO-DMT to go on psychedelic trips or enlightenment or whatever their reason may be,” said Josh Waling, the owner and wildlife technician at First Response Wildlife.

In countries like Mexico, the compound is legal for consumption and many people have traveled to Mexico to use the animal’s drug compound for spiritual purposes.

Despite its cultural and spiritual significance, harvesting the toad’s poison has raised ethical concerns for the animal’s well-being and safety.

“You’re harvesting from an animal that doesn’t deserve to be treated like that,” says Waling.

“That is its defense mechanism in the wild to stay alive, so if the kids start harvesting these animals and putting them back out in the wild, you’re basically killing the animal and leaving them helpless.”

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