Christina Haack’s method for quelling her anxiety is unusual — but is it legitimate?
The star of the home renovation shows Flip or Flop and Christina on the Coast surprised fans earlier this month when she posted an Instagram photo of herself with her new boyfriend, Joshua Hall. However, it wasn’t just her new romance that had fans raising eyebrows. In her caption, Haack declared that she “smoked a Bufo toad” and in doing so, “basically reset my brain and kicked out years of anxiety” in just 15 minutes.
So what does it mean to “smoke a Bufo toad?”
Anya Ermakova, a member of the California-based Chacruna Institute’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants, which researches plant medicines and psychedelics, tells Yahoo Life that “Bufo toad” — a tautology, because Bufo means toad in Latin — is the colloquial term for the Sonoran desert toad, a large amphibian living in the Sonoran Desert in the U.S. and Mexico.
“People smoke bufotoxin, which is a milky venom used for defense from predators,” Ermakova explains. “It is secreted from the glands behind the eyes and on the legs of a toad.”
The result of smoking this secretion is a potentially “intense” psychedelic experience, largely thought to be due to bufotoxin’s main psychoactive ingredient, 5-MeO-DMT. David Nutt, director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College in London, notes that the purpose is to promote “self-awareness and personal psychological growth.”
Alan Davis, assistant professor of Social work and psychiatry at Ohio State University and Johns Hopkins University, adds, “For those that have a good experience, they describe short-term and enduring benefits to mental health functioning and quality of life. They also describe enduring changes in their sense of self, spirituality, and worldview. Many report that they experience a decrease in depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance misuse.”
Ermakova tells Yahoo Life that “there is no scientific evidence”— in terms of clinical or laboratory studies — to prove that smoking this secretion can improve mental well-being. At least, not yet. “It is mostly anecdotal reports,” Ermakova explains. “Several epidemiological surveys where people who've taken toad secretions or pure 5-MeO-DMT, as part of the ceremony or recreationally, report improvements in their mental health. Currently, several studies are underway in the Netherlands and United Kingdom.”
According to Bia Labate, the Chacruna Institute's executive director, there has been “a lot of celebration of the therapeutic potentials of 5-MeO-DMT,” despite the fact that the scientific literature around it is “still modest.”
“North American veterans with PTSD and people with a history of problematic drug use have frequently looked for the combination of 5-MeO-DMT and ibogaine for treatment, with some success,” Labate explains. “However, there are also reports of negative effects on this combination.”
There are other drawbacks to smoking Bufo toad secretions as well. For one thing, it’s not legal in the United States, since 5-MeO-DMT is still classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Those seeking a country where it is legal, however, may want to think twice in the name of protecting the ecology.
“The biggest threat from the rise in popularity of toad secretions is for the poor toads themselves,” says Ermakova. “Catching toads to milk their secretions can be very stressful and can add to the other ecological threats that these toads are experiencing (climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, development, road collisions), which can really endanger these amphibians.”
Adds Davis, “Because of people’s desire to harvest the secretion they are removing toads from their natural environment, milking them repeatedly in captivity, and the population of toads is being decimated as a result. Also, because of more human traffic in this region, more and more toads are dying as a result of things like cars, etc. There is also the ethical issue of traumatizing another species to harvest its biological product.”
For those who do seek out 5-MeO-DMT, Ermakova suggests proceeding with caution.
“The contraindications for using 5-MeO-DMT [are] similar to other psychedelics,” she explains. “[You should have] no history of psychotic illness, and no concurrent use of certain medications. It is also very important to take psychedelics in an appropriate ‘set and setting.’”
While the use of Bufo toad remains controversial, it certainly seems that Haack is happy with her experience.
Video courtesy of NBC/E! News