America’s National Park Service has warned walkers not to lick any Sonoran desert toads that they find.
The Sonoran desert toad, also known as the Colorado river toad, is a chunky, short-legged amphibian which can grow up to over seven inches in length.
Like its more famous relative the Cane toad, the Sonoran desert toad secretes a sticky toxic substance from a special gland behind its eyes that is intended to deter predators.
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But many humans have deliberately consumed the poison – it’s known to have a strong psychedelic effect, especially affecting users’ hearing.
It’s also been used as an aphrodisiac, particularly in the West Indies.
Boxing legend Mike Tyson says that he “died” the first time he smoked toad venom.
"I 'died' during my first trip," he told The New York Post, he confessed, "I did it as a dare. I was doing heavy drugs like cocaine,” he added, “so why not? It’s another dimension. Before I did the toad, I was a wreck”.
Iron Mike reportedly keeps a small colony of Sonoran desert toads at his ranch in southern California.
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The former heavyweight champ says the drug, which he describes as a healing ritual, helped him lose 100 pounds of weight, reconnect with his family and rediscover his passion for boxing.
"People see the difference [in me]," he told the New York Post. "It speaks for itself. If you knew me in 1989 you knew a different person. My mind isn’t sophisticated enough to fathom what happened, but life has improved.
"The toad’s whole purpose is to reach your highest potential. I look at the world differently. We’re all the same. Everything is love.”
But the drug, which had also been used as an aphrodisiac, particularly in the West Indies, can have dangerous side effects.
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Dogs that have tried to pick up the toads in their mouth have been known to suffer paralysis or even death.
And a woman died in 1996 after drinking a tea containing dried toad venom that had been prepared for her by a Chinese herbalist.
And this week the Park Service felt it necessary to remind people not to get too close to the toxic amphibians: “These toads have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin. It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth.
“As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking…”
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