FORT MYERS, Fla. – Smoking toxic toad venom is a trend surprisingly becoming more and more popular with celebrities.
Celebrities like Mike Tyson and “Flip or Flop” star Christina Haack recently revealed they’ve smoked it.
Bufo toads, or cane toads, are a common sight for those living here in Southwest Florida and can be toxic to pets.
Why are we now hearing about people, particularly celebrities, smoking their venom?
“So, over here is usually where we see them. They are nocturnal,” said Taylor Hancock with The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Hancock studies the bufo toad in Southwest Florida. He knows all about the amphibians and their venom.
“Toxic, unstoppable predator that is eating things smaller than it. And things that are bigger than it, pretty much can’t eat them. Or they try and they get sick through the toxins or they die from the toxins,” Taylor explained.
But he was a little surprised at what they’re becoming known for these days.
“I was surprised that people were smoking it,” Hancock explained. “Because I had heard before people were licking poisonous toads for the hallucinogenic effects.”
“People have known about this for almost 100 years that there’s a psychedelic element,” said Dr. Martha Rosenthal, a professor of neuroscience and physiology at FGCU. “But I think there’s great interest in this and we’re seeing more people be open about it, more people using it. And there’s some really interesting therapeutic potential.”
Dr. Rosenthal is talking about therapeutic potential like treating depression or anxiety. But she warns that smoking bufo toad venom is against the law.
“It is schedule 1. It’s illegal, “said Dr. Rosenthal. “So how do you know what the source is? How do you know that it’s safe? Because every toad secrets a different amount. How do you trust what it is?”
It can also come with some pretty serious side effects.
“Blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up, your face gets purple, nausea, vomiting, sweating, drooling, headache,” explained Dr. Rosenthal.
And potentially even death.
Dr. Rosenthal and Taylor also added that the type of bufo toad that’s being used for this is not the bufo toad we see here in the wild in Southwest Florida.
It’s actually called the Colorado River toad.
NBC2 did try to find someone selling it here, but since it’s illegal, we weren’t successful.
Bottom line: stay away from it, and keep your pets away from it, too. The venom is so toxic it could kill them.