Getting High in the Desert

I fished some toads out of my spa when it wasn’t working, and out of my neighbors’ swimming pool when they were out of town, and when I mentioned that to a friend she asked Did you lick one?

Sonoran Desert Toad

During the summer monsoon season, Sonoran Desert Toads (Bufo alvarius) are common, nocturnal visitors to yards near water or natural, desert vegetation here in the Sonoran Desert. They emerge after the summer rains in order to feed and breed in large, temporary rain pools. During the rest of the year, Sonoran Desert Toads hibernate underground. These huge toads like to gorge on insects, especially June Beetles, near outdoor lights or lighted windows and doors. Male Sonoran Desert Toads will also get into swimming pools and then call to attract females. Since they are usually unable to escape from the swimming pool, the Sonoran Desert Toads can be found the next morning, usually still alive, sitting grumpily inside the pool filter compartment waiting to be rescued.

Sonoran Desert Toad toxin is not just toxic, it is also hallucinogenic and contains large amounts of the potent hallucinogen 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyl-tryptamine (5-MeO-DMT). Since their toxin is poisonous to humans if ingested (which includes toad licking), psychedelic drug users will milk the toads’ poison glands, dry the toxin, and then smoke tiny amounts of it, which supposedly makes it less toxic.

But these aren’t the only hallucinogens in the desert. I have many of these beautiful “weeds” in my garden since the monsoons started.

Sacred Datura

daturaDatura wrightii or Sacred Datura is the name of a poisonous perennial plant and ornamental flower of southwestern North America. It is sometimes used as a hallucinogen. Datura wrightii is classified as a deliriant and an anticholinergic.


Among the Zuni people the powdered root is given as an anesthetic and a narcotic for surgery. They also apply a poultice of root and flower meal applied to wounds to promote healing.


Datura wrightii is sacred to some native Americans and has been used in ceremonies and rites of passage by Chumash, Tongva, and others. Among the Chumash, when a boy was 8 years old, his mother gave him a preparation of momoy to drink. This was supposed to be a spiritual challenge to the boy to help him develop the spiritual wellbeing that is required to become a man. Not all of the boys survived. The Zuni people also use the plant for ceremonial and magical purposes. The root pieces are chewed by a robbery victim to determine the identity of the thief. The powdered root is used by rain priests in a number of ways to ensure fruitful rains.


Datura wrightii has also been used to induce hallucination for recreational purposes. Ingestion of plant material can induce auditory and visual hallucinations similar to those of Datura stramonium, with the active compounds being concentrated in the seedpods and roots; concentrations vary widely between samples, and onset is slow. This makes dosage estimation a difficult and adds further risk to the administration of material that already has potentially lethal side effects. Scopolamine is the primary active molecule; it is related to atropine, with a similar, largely anticholinergic activity. Effects may include dry mouth, hyperthermia, profuse sweating, drowsiness, lethargy and anterograde amnesia – along with the before-mentioned hallucinations and sensory distortions. These compounds also induce a profound dilatation of the pupils and suppress eye saccades, resulting in considerable degradation of visual acuity, often to the point of functional blindness. This may persist, to a reduced degree, for days. The combined effect may result in a panic state in the user, a particularly dangerous situation in someone temporarily deprived of useful vision; users are prone to serious accidental injury. Scopolamine induces respiratory depression at hallucinogenic doses. The combination of anesthesia (in the hospital) and Datura is usually fatal due to combined respiratory depression. Seizures and fevers as high as 110°F have been reported.


Tags: , ,

One Response to “Getting High in the Desert”

  1. Jim Says:

    They are prey to owls, which eat everything except for their skin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: