5-MeO-DMT is a natural psychedelic drug found in the venom of the Colorado River toad, Bufo Alvarius, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad. Smoking 5-MeO-DMT induces a short but intense psychedelic experience or ‘trip’, with hallucinogenic effects that are significantly stronger than those induced by DMT (the primary psychoactive molecule found in Ayahuasca). Despite this, the difference between 5-MeO-DMT and DMT is just a single Methoxy group, and it is structurally similar to other psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and DMT.

Also present in at least nine families of plants, trees, and shrubs, use of 5-MeO-DMT as a psychedelic drug has been traced back some 3000 years in the form of crushed seeds known as ‘Yopo’, which are still used in spiritual ceremonies in Venezuela, Columbia, and Brazil. 5-MeO-DMT was first synthesised in 1936 by chemists Toshio Hoshino and Kenya Shimodaira and identified as an active component of Amazonian snuffs in 1959. Since then, 5-MeO-DMT has been detected in human blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid.

Legal 5-MeO-DMT was readily available online as a ‘research chemical’, and grew increasingly popular before being made illegal in the USA in 2011, after which many other countries followed suit and banned the substance.

Due to these restrictions, research into 5-MeO-DMT is extremely limited and only a handful of studies have been conducted to date.

Bufo Alvarius Toad (Colorado River Toad)

As a defence mechanism, the Colorado River Toad secretes a white milky substance called ‘Bufotoxin’ from areas behind its eyes called ‘parotoid glands’. When dried this contains up to 30% 5-MeO-DMT by mass, alongside other substances such as Bufotenine, DMT, NMT, DET, N-Methylserotonin and Bufogenin. There is no evidence of a difference between synthetic 5-MeO-DMT and that secreted by the Bufo Alvarius toad, meanwhile there are concerns regarding the environmental impact that Bufotoxin collection may be having on local toad populations at the United States and Mexico border.

The 5-MeO-DMT content of natural toad secretions can vary greatly between samples, which makes accurate dosing more difficult. This can be dangerous because 5-MeO-DMT is very powerful, even at low dosages, and the effects are highly dose-dependant, following a steep dose-response curve.

Synthesised 5-MeO-DMT

5-MeO-DMT is most commonly consumed in the form of a synthetic white, crystalline powder. Typical doses of 5-MeO-DMT are very small, typically 5mg, so care should always be taken by using accurate scales and researching the appropriate doses. 5-MeO-DMT in this form is typically either vapourised in a pipe and inhaled or less commonly insufflated (snorted).

Anadenanthera seeds (Yopo)

Some trees under the genus Anadenanthera contain 5-MeO-DMT. There is a long history of use of these seeds as shamanic snuffs in South America. Once the seeds have been toasted they are ground, sometimes mixed with other materials such as Ash and Tobacco, and forcefully blown up the nose of a user via a tube.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a traditional tea, originating from South America. It is made from a mixture of psychedelic plants and a vine containing a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor. The MAOI prevents gut enzymes from breaking down the psychedelic components of the leaves, making them orally active. Some Ayahuasca recipes include 5-MeO-DMT containing plants, however, this combination has been shown to be fatal, and there is evidence to show that mixing 5-MeO-DMT with MAOIs can be potentially dangerous.

For more information about Ayahuasca, see our Ayahuasca Drug information page.

After being vaporised and inhaled 5-MeO-DMT quickly passes the blood-brain barrier. It shares a similar chemical structure with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which means it can fit into some of the serotonin receptors in the brain where it acts as an agonist, meaning it stimulates the receptor – especially the 5-HT2A subtype of the serotonin receptor.

Stimulation of these Serotonin receptors leads to the psychedelic state e.g hallucinations, and can affect mood and body temperature.

5-MeO-DMT is a relatively short-acting psychedelic drug and the ‘trip’ usually lasts less than 30 minutes when smoked, and up to 45 minutes when insufflated. When vapourised and inhaled the effects begin almost instantaneously, which means it is very important to be in a safe and comfortable environment to avoid accidents

Users often report overwhelmingly intense experiences which can sometimes be difficult to remember. Accounts of mystical union, feelings of non-duality and experiences of a transpersonal nature are not uncommon. Often uncomfortable bodily sensations such as a rapid heart rate, nausea and pressure in the chest can be present.

The alterations to perception as a result of taking 5-MeO-DMT often include auditory and visual hallucinations, internal scenes, time perception distortions and cognitive and/or emotional shifts. Some users report that 5-MeO-DMT is less visually intense than NN-DMT.

Similar to other psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD, experiences can range from being euphoric and spiritually significant to dysphoric and psychologically scarring.

There is research which suggests that 5-MeO-DMT could have associations with improvements in anxiety and depression. It is sometimes used as an adjunct to Ibogaine therapy for the treatment of addiction. This may be effective because 5-MeO-DMT has been shown to down-regulate a receptor involved in the reward mechanism of drug abuse. The same study found that cells treated with 5-MeO-DMT show a similar response to anti-depressant medications. Further research is needed to investigate 5-MeO-DMT’s potential anti-depressive properties.

There have been suggestions that 5-MeO-DMT could be of use in understanding the neurobiological basis of hallucinations and for antipsychotic drug development.

Sleep disturbances, persistent anxiety and panic attacks have been reported in some individuals after a single experience with 5-MeO-DMT.

Unwanted or overwhelming realisations or insights can be hard for some people to integrate after their experiences. Some accounts describe persistent psychological disturbances and resurfacing of the effects lasting for weeks after use. Using a low, precisely measured dose can help to avoid unexpected or overly powerful effects.

As 5-MeO-DMT is most commonly smoked, anyone with a lung condition or asthma would be at a higher risk of adverse effects. Additionally, as 5-MeO-DMT can increase heart rate, people with cardiac problems should avoid using it.

People predisposed to or suffering from schizophrenia or psychosis might experience an onset or worsening of symptoms from 5-MeO-DMT use.

There is evidence to show that mixing 5-MeO-DMT with MAOI drugs can be dangerous and increase the risk of harm. There have been deaths from this combination.

There is also an increased risk of cardiac complications if combined with stimulants.

Alcohol should also be avoided to reduce the risk of vomiting and aspiration.

A study of 5-MeO-DMT users concluded that it is generally ‘used infrequently, predominantly for spiritual exploration’ and ‘has low potential for addiction’.

82% of the sample reported using 5-MeO-DMT for spiritual or healing/psychological purposes, indicating that it is not a substance which is commonly used recreationally.

Additionally, the majority of the sample indicated that they used it less than once a year, with the majority of use taking place in ceremonial or supportive contexts. Therefore, compulsive re-dosing and addictive behaviour patterns are unlikely to be seen with 5-MeO-DMT.

5-MeO-DMT in moderate to high doses will often leave the user incapacitated, so it is important to have someone present to prevent an individual from injuring themselves if they start moving around. Because of this, it is also advisable to be aware of the environment in which it is consumed, avoiding obvious hazards such as bodies of water and steep drops.

Occasionally, effects can vary from abnormal vocalisations and unusual body movements to complete unresponsiveness. Therefore, the person accompanying a 5-MeO-DMT user should know how to place someone in the recovery position, as vomiting is sometimes reported. Bear in mind that unconsciousness, along with breathing difficulties, is a sign of overdose and should be monitored.

Although 5-MeO-DMT is sometimes used in South American Ayahuasca recipes, it is generally considered dangerous to mix with any MAOI.

As 5-MeO-DMT is active in doses from as small as 3mg, weighing the dose carefully with a precise scale is important to avoid accidental overdose.

There is the potential for 5-MeO-DMT to be confused with N,N-DMT, a mistake which can be potentially problematic due to 5-MeO-DMT being 4-10x more potent than N,N-DMT and having a lower toxicity threshold. For more information on N,N-DMT, see our DMT Drug Information page. Home testing kits are available to buy online which can distinguish between the two. Always start with low doses to be safe.

There is a popular myth regarding ‘licking’ toads to get high. This is dangerous with Bufo Toads as Bufotoxin contains ‘digoxin-like cardiac glycosides’ which can be fatal. There have been reports of poisonings and even deaths from the ingestion of Bufo Toad toxins by humans.

Related Content

Support our work and help ensure that evidence-based research can influence policy and public opinion, not political or commercial agenda.

Drug Science is an independent, science-led drugs charity. We rely on donations to continue to promote evidence-based information about drugs without political or commercial interference.

We are grateful … But we need more. We can’t do it alone. Becoming a donor will help ensure we can continue our work. Join our Community and access opportunities to become more deeply engaged in our work.