The Toad Venom That's Stronger Than DMT: Bufo
Thank you for providing us this medicine, healing us, and teaching us how to heal ourselves. I've done some pretty crazy things in my time making Vice documentaries, but this is the craziest thing I've ever done. Bufo can help you deconstruct all the beliefs, all the thoughts that are not working for you.
Sorry. I'm sorry. It's a cycle. And you don't know how to stop. How aware were you of what you were doing when you were under the effects of bufo? You're totally unaware of your body. When I took the hit, my soul left my body. I feel like I died.
That felt like being hit by a lightning bolt. There's no going back. Taking bufo alvarius or speed toading involves smoking the milked poison of the Sonoran Desert toad in a glass pipe. Known for instilling total ego death, it's considered the most powerful hallucinogen in the world. And it's increasingly being touted as a remedy for mental illness and addiction.
This should be for everyone because it can really heal. Now, growing numbers of psychedelic tourists are traveling to Tulum, Mexico, where bufo ceremonies are legal, in search of a life changing experience. Each journey I just leave and I feel so much better. It became the most significant experience that I have had in my entire life. But for some, the experience can lead to lasting trauma.
This should not be administered if you’ve had a severe trauma It did the opposite of help. I would never ever want to experience that ever again. What's more, accusations against prominent shamans of sexual assault and accidental deaths have shaken the bufo community. People are taking advantage of women, taking advantage of tourists, taking advantage of the medicines.
We're seeing so often in different chat groups, Watch out for this guy. Last high season there was so much. As its lure grows, I'm here to experience first hand whether taking bufo is really worth the risk. We're about to arrive at the Bufo Alvarius Sanctuary, which is basically where the hard sell to tourists begins in the form of billboards on the high Street.
Toad ceremony. Inside, a shaman or facilitator will, for a fee, give you the world's most powerful hallucinogen in a teepee, and then you're back out within an hour. Hello. How's it going? — Good.
Are you Dr. Alvarius? — Tht's right. Matt. Good to meet you. — Welcome. We can go straight in to see the place. Who's this? Ah, it’s Mike Tyson with Dr. Gerry. He's one of the pioneers of serving bufo already like 15 years ago he started. Doctor Gerry.
Doctor Gerry has popularized the drug around the world. The medicine does ego death. Picking up such fans as Mike Tyson. This guy took me to heaven and back, man. He took me somewhere I've never been before, man. He sounds like someone I should meet, then.
Yes, absolutely. And how many people can you see in a day here? Up to 12 bufo sessions a day, One hour private sessions. And how much does it cost for one? 3,000 pesos. Is it a profitable industry? Yes, I think everyone here is winning.
What kind of qualifications do you need to administer bufo? There's not much theory to learn. It's just to serve enough and to protect them during their journey. And where does the bufo happen? Bufo we do in the big teepee there. Can I have a look inside? Sure. Let's get in. Clients book this teepee for an hour, but an average bufo trip lasts around 20 minutes.
So you've come here to do bufo. This is an incredible experience here. And this is my second time coming to this location. What are you expecting is going to happen? Each journey, I just leave and I feel so much better.
My depression has helped a lot. I have less anxiety. I'm kind of able to deal with things at home a little bit better. So that's what I'm expecting, that peace. So did you have clinical depression? — Yes. And were you medicated for that? When you first did bufo, did you stop doing your medication? I stopped it before the ceremony because you're supposed to stop all of that two weeks before and I did then. Did you go cold turkey? Pretty much, yeah.
Are you nervous at all or apprehensive? I was nervous the first time for sure, but no, I'm not nervous. I know exactly what to expect, so I'm just ready. Bufo is 10 to 20 times stronger than DMT, so it's no surprise Victoria doesn't want us to film her experience. Hey. How are you?
I just became one with the earth and this amazing light was coming out of me. And it just reminded me like it's always been inside of me. If I thought I had lost it. But the light is still there and it's very strong. And I'm just so full of gratitude right now.
And can you try and describe the experience at all? Parts of it was very much like being in avatar. Like if you can think of the colors. When you can hear colors and you can smell colors, it's like you become one with the planet.
And that's how I felt and I felt the light coming out of me. Wow. I kind of want what she had, you know, like she's had a full reset.
So if I can get that, that would be amazing. Many people seek bufo as a remedy to their mental health issues. You might think that places a huge responsibility on those who administer it, but their approach is surprisingly blase. So there's no customer that you would reject. Only if they have some serious, like physical illnesses. Not if they had schizophrenia? Yeah, even schizophrenia.
I don't think it's an ... it absolutely can be healed with this as well. What about if they're on antidepressants? The addiction of these antidepressants can be also resolved here. Would you tell them to stop taking their medication? Yeah, if they can do it, it's advisable to stop using them a few days before. Isn't it a little bit dangerous just to stop taking your medication? Yeah, if you are suicidal, maybe you suicide if you stop taking it. It can be lethal to mix antidepressants with bufo. But going cold turkey without medical supervision is equally dangerous, as is administering such a powerful psychedelic to people at risk of psychosis.
My preconception about taking a psychedelic as strong as ayahuasca, which this is, is that you go into the jungle, there's a shaman, there's probably some drums being banged. This is next door to a Burger King. Away from the high street, there are freelance shamans who administer the drug in more natural settings.
This practice, the way I serve it is not something that I took a course or a training to facilitate. Amin was a corporate banker from Mexico City who was transformed so profoundly by bufo that he left his job in order to administer it to others. When you're in that situation of giving the world's most powerful hallucinogen, what does that feel like for you? Man, it's the most fulfilling job I've ever had. Today, one of his clients is taking bufo for the first time. Bufo, I definitely believe that it's a sacred medicine, it can help you deconstruct all the beliefs, all the thoughts that are not working for you.
The effects of bufo on her aren't immediately visible. But internally, a psychedelic experience is unfolding as her ego begins to leave her body. How aware were you of what you were doing when you were under the effects of bufo? Like not not at all. Yeah, not at all. Like not, not, — at all? You were sort of like, giggling and drooling a little bit.
Almost like a happy baby. In fact, at one point, you actually had a rattle. I did. I felt like a happy baby. I was like. At one point you said, 'Gracias, Pacha Mama.' Gracias Pacha Mama. Pacha Mama is Mother Earth.
And I think I felt really held in that whole experience being outside of my body. I wasn't going to fall through a hole of, you know, of, like, nothingness. Mother Earth provides everything that we need to feel safe here. Ansley had a positive experience and seemed comfortable with Amin. But putting yourself in such a vulnerable state carries some risk.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people practicing with no safety or it's just transactional. So there are risks involved. People drowning, people, heart conditions, you know, or taking other medications that can give you a serotoninergic syndrome and you can die. People get really sick. Right, OK. —Yeah.
And what kind of sick? Like vomiting, fever, chills. You know, like their bodies don't react well. I guess you really have to trust that person because they're administering such a powerful medicine.
Yeah, I think you're totally unaware of your body. And, like, if someone, yeah, I mean, if someone was touching me, like, I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. Have there been any instances of sexual abuse? Yeah, a lot of facilitators, I know that they use medicines to try to get involved with the girls or even brainwash them. Like there are a lot of stories. Shannon knows how easy it is to fall into the hands of a fake healer. There are so many vulnerable people here, and it's really easy to take advantage of them.
A lot of the tactics, it's either fear or flattery. You know, I can see how special you are. I can see that, you know, this thing can be changed. And if you come and work with my medicine and if we do these things together, then absolutely you're going to finally be able to live the life that you want to live. And I've been in that position.
And what's tough is that there's so much shame already around sexual abuse, and then you layer psychedelics into it and the abuse of power. And I feel like it just gets complicated and there's even more guilt and shame and, you know, maybe did I bring this on myself and do I want to talk about these things? And people come here looking for healing and sometimes you stumble into the wrong people. It's pretty obvious that bufo is an incredibly powerful substance, but also that the people who administer bufo, the shamans, they're interacting with people at their most vulnerable. There's one shaman in particular who we keep hearing about. Who's this? —Mike Tyson with Doctor Gerry. How did you first find out about Doctor Gerry? It was watching a Mike Tyson podcast.
Tracy had an experience with Doctor Gerry that he says took a toll on his mental health. It took me six months to recover. I'd fall asleep. Then I'd wake up because this giant portal thing would open up, you know and vibrate in front of me. I couldn't sleep. I was having panic attacks all day long.
My mind was so fractured, like I couldn’t drive anywhere. I couldn't do anything. That fear from that bufo experience didn’t go away.
A series of allegations against Dr. Gerry Sandoval were published in an open letter in 2019. These include lack of aftercare, rape and sexual assault. We've even heard allegations that someone died medically while under his care and was brought back to life with CPR. My soul left my body.
My heart stopped. He had to do CPR. I feel like I died. We've managed to get Gerry to meet us on the shores of Lake Bacalar before we take a boat to a remote island to witness a bufo ceremony. Gerry? —Hey. Matt, good to meet you. —Nice to meet you, man. He has agreed to answer our questions about the allegations against him, but not in front of his clients.
Adam, nice to meet you. So the people here, are they all going to do bufo with you today? That is correct. What kinds of reasons are they coming to you for doing bufo? They can say for themselves, no? —Yeah. In my personal life, my daily life, I do deal with a great deal of anxiety, so I'm just looking to step outside of myself that way.
I just have at least a reference point so that moving forward I can really make some significant change. I'm hoping just to continue my journey of self-improvement. I feel like the breakthrough, the near-death experience you sort of experience has that potential to help in that way. To heal our soul and heal our bodies and our mind as well. So it's a full combination of body, mind and spirit. And what's your connection to Gerry? I'm his wife.
You're his wife? I'm his wife, yes. I'm facilitating bufo today. I have done it with Gerry before. For the first time six years ago, I had a really, really intense trip, but it was exactly what I needed.
How many milligrams do you give each person? I'm giving around 90 to 100mg. It's the minimum effective dose to completely dissolve the ego. You're not supposed to be here. You're supposed to be out of here. Who's gonna go first? Oh, yeah, I'll go first. Adam is a bufo enthusiast and is here today hoping to cure his social anxiety. It looks like his soul is repeatedly pressing the snooze button on an alarm clock set by reality.
Pacha Mama, Pacha Mama. Pacha Mama, Pacha Mama. After 20 minutes, he's back. Back to reality. If you think that psychedelics exclusively lead to altruism, his next comment may surprise you. Give all the credit to Ayn Rand.
One of my goals is to live 200 years and I really believe bio-medicines have a major role in that journey. While it's so far unclear if Adam's trip has brought society any closer to immortality, he reported that it did help his social anxiety. Can you get under my arms? Gerry's next client is 25 year old trainee yoga teacher, Jordan. Oh, you missed the coochie cleansing. but that was actually very important. Why is it important to have your coochie cleansed? Because this is my power center and my energy center, and it's what makes me, me.
I hope to have a very orgasmic and blissful experience. Spirit guides. Transdimensional beings of light. Allowing me to be a clear, open channel of your infinite love, light, wisdom. Healing energies and the Christ Consciousness.
Peace on Earth begins today, and it begins within me. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Simply hold it over your nose and mouth. Eight. Seven, six, five, four, three, two. Oh. As soon as Jordan inhales Doctor Gerry's 100 milligram dose of bufo, she loses total control of her body.
The teeth chattering. Where does that come from? Well, when the medicine comes in, it begins on the feet, manifests as a small jittery movement, ascends all the way to the head. Very important not to confuse it with convulsion seizures, because a lot of people are like, whoa, she's, you know. No, it's completely normal. It's expected.
It's the ascension of the medicine towards the brain. Oh, yes. It's easy to see how important it is for people with intense reactions like Jordan to be carefully looked after. Oh.
I need help. I need help. - You’re safe. No, I need help.
- Clarity is on the way. Yes. Yes, it is. - Yes. - Good girl, yes, yes.
Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to let go. In the middle of it all, Jordan seems to gain some lucidity. Can I have some more? Or should I just ...
You want round 2? Is that O.K? Let’s ask the Doctor. Dr Gerry. She would like another. No, she had a huge process right now. We don’t want anymore.
She asked for another one, but you were like, No. No. She had a process, clearly. So if we give her another, then she would have a high risk of having integration issues.
A lot of constant reactivations and stuff. No need for that. Yes. Okay. So it's important to know when it's enough. Sorry.
Minutes later, she slips back into her trip. I don’t know how to let go. She resisted the initial phase. When you fully relax eventually —The pain is in my heart.
then the toad takes you for a second spin. —The pain is in my heart. Which is the case right now. —The pain is in my heart. I thought I was done. But coming back from that is so easy.
Thought I was done. Jordan's experience outwardly appeared difficult, but when it stopped, she became ecstatic. Had she achieved inner peace, or was she happy because the traumatic thing was over? So what happens next for her? Well, she has a high chance of having a reactivation tonight. Does she have a support network that can help her with that over the next few days while she's doing this? Absolutely. We're going to be in contact touch with her to see how she's doing. But no, she had a beautiful process. I'm really happy with her process.
She did it. The third person who's going to do bufo today with Gerry is going to do it floating in the water. Let's hope he doesn't have a reaction like the last person. The water holds the secret of eternal life.
When we connect to the water while being in a higher state of consciousness. Your mind and your body lets go completely. I am you. And you are me. Hello. Long time no see.
Yeah, it was about 20 minutes. Way longer than I thought. Was there any particular trauma that you had that you felt was coming up? I think losing my father at a young age. When I was nine, he passed away. He was in a tragic motorcycle accident. And I thought I was I thought I was done grieving that. And I think I just tell myself that I am and just keep going.
And I'm really not. I don't know if you were aware, but you were saying, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Do you know what you were apologizing for? So I feel that I was still very much in my head and in the ego, and I was just apologizing for not surrendering because it's a pattern that I feel I do time and time again. And then I beat myself up. And then it's a cycle that happens.
But I think that's the thing with mental health issues is that you're trying so hard. It's a cycle. And you don't know how to stop. But it's not about being perfect and it's not about trying to do the performance or trying to, like, say what you think people want to hear. All those things. So I was just apologizing, I think, for judging myself. At one point. I think you were kind of terrified
and wanted it to stop. Is that right? Oh, no, no. —Okay. If anything, I wanted more because I think I just. I wanted to ...
take it to another level. But I think there's a lifetime for that. And I think that healing is a process and this is just the beginning. Dr. Gerry's clients today seem positively transformed. Yes. Well done, everybody.
But some of his past customers claim their experiences were far worse. There was no help. He actually told me to eat a cheeseburger, take Xanax and take a cold shower. One even claimed that she had medically died under his care.
I started on the bed and everything was one way. And then I woke up on the floor with Gerry standing over me, like looking kind of panicked. I knew something was wrong. We contacted several of the accusers about the contents of the 2019 Open Letter, but none of them were able to provide a source for the sexual assault allegations who would go on record.
Although one woman said she woke up topless with his crotch in her face. There was a letter published about you. Absolutely. What's the story with that? The allegations of rape and fraud are simply untrue.
All of my organizers, especially female organizers, are always present when I'm administering the medicine to a woman. Me as a medical officer, I have the obligation as an OB-GYN, as a gynecologist. If I'm going to explore a woman, there has to be a female nurse or a female figure there, you know.
We spoke to two women who claimed that either their pulse completely stopped or they became totally unresponsive while taking bufo with you. And one of them thinks maybe that you even had to give them CPR. No, that all happened in her mind. She went through a powerful ego death that when she came back she actually thought I brought her back from the dead. I never moved from my place where I was, but that all happened in her mind. We spoke to another woman who says that when she came to from the bufo, her top was off and that her head was near your crotch.
No, but it is very common for that's the exhibitionist reaction. A lot of people upon exposure of the molecule, they strip naked. And of course if that happens, if a woman gets naked, I very humbly and politely might grab a sheet and cover her. There have been some people who allege that they've had psychosis or lasting mental effects after taking bufo with you. If you see the number of people I'm serving, which is, you know, thousands of people, of course it's expected that a very minority is going to have complications.
There's certain diagnoses, mental diseases that are not going to benefit from this experience and might end up actually in a worse place before exposure. So what kind of precautions do you take to make sure people like that don't come take bufo? —Well, we screen them. You know, initially we do a screening. I do a medical interview to assess that they're in good conditions for the medicine. But at the end of the day, you never know.
People can always lie. My only regret is that I didn't have enough time to spend with them, but I do believe I've done way much more good than harm. It is conceivable that given the power of the drug, one could imagine any scenario could have happened while they were under the effect of it. Unfortunately, that then becomes the perfect smokescreen for any allegation, whether it's true or not.
The sole admission we did get from him was that he does, to some degree regret not being there for the people who now say after taking bufo with him, they have lasting mental effects. It's clear that there are huge risks around bufo because it puts vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable state. But I keep hearing these stories about how it has profoundly improved people's lives, I feel that in order to understand whether bufo is truly worth the risk, there's no way around trying it myself. I've signed up to one of the industry's most premium shamanic bufo packages. But before I'm even introduced to a bufo shaman, I'm told I need to go through a whole schedule of spiritual foreplay first. Complete with Kundalini activation exercises, a Mayan sweat lodge, and a cenote dive.
I'm wondering, like, how much of the random stuff that we're doing is actually important before ingesting the toad venom? Yes, very good. That was really good. I've never been walked on before actually. But yeah, it's just feeling like a kind of parade of novelties right now. I've heard about these little dwarves called the Lucia's.
So Lucia's are the Mayan spirits of the jungle. I didn't use to believe in them until I saw one myself. Okay. Everyone keeps saying, like when you take bufo, a part of you dies and a part of you is reborn and you change. And I'm just, like, really worried that the part of me that's going to die is the part that doesn't believe in little dwarves. And the part of me that will be reborn is a new part that does.
And I quite like the part of me that doesn't believe in little dwarves, and I really don't want it to disappear. Now I'm ready to meet a bufo shaman, by a replica of an ancient Mayan pyramid. I feel like I'm about to go on an extreme Disneyland ride. Hi. Hello. —How are you?
I'm very good. And you? Good. Good. So are you the shaman who's going to be giving me the medicine? I am the medicine man, yeah.
So how do you decide what dosage to give people? Basically, I'm a highly intuitive person. The way that I commune and I serve is I connect with your higher self. And what was my higher self telling you, now? You're around 40, 45 milligrams.
Okay. Yeah. Just make sure that you're ready to let go of everything that you don't need. Okay. It's fun. Are you ready to die? No. Well, let's see.
Just as I'm ready to take the hit. A last minute surprise is that Rodrigo is taking a hit first. Definitely not the common practice of a sober guide to ensure a participant's safety. The bufo smoke feels painless, just like air.
And the taste I can only describe as primordial. It instantly felt like the most profound thing to ever happen, as though until that moment, I had only experienced a tiny limited fraction of reality. I also felt extremely vulnerable, like I was an egg and God had just cracked me into a pan. At first I thought this, but then when I finally surrendered, it was pure bliss. I felt a gust of wind on my body. And then was that gust of wind soaring across the canopy. It's like being dissolved into the ground around you.
I remember you said to me something like, Oh, you don't have to do it if you don't want to. And I was like, That kept playing back in my head, tethering me back to reality. Well, it's a hell of an experience. Did you see the elves? I didn't see elves, but the elves were nothing compared to what I saw.
So I just woke up from the craziest dreams I've ever had in my life. And I have to say, I feel pretty amazing. I feel like colors are more vivid. It's like there's a path that was overgrown with weeds and then it's been cut back. And now you know that you can go through that path. Because the effects are so earth shattering, many shamans now offer an integration session to help you digest your experience.
How was your sleep? Yeah, I slept really, really well. Things seem a little bit less stressful. So if I were to call you a couple of weeks from now and say, you know, I've had some sort of reactivation or flashback or I'm finding something difficult, would you be there to ... For sure, Yeah, for sure. That's what I encourage. What about the dark side? What about the people who are administering bufo incorrectly? What are the risks there? Sleep paralysis, depression or schizophrenia? There is many irresponsible sexual activities. Is it true that there have been cases of sexual assault occurring during bufo ceremonies? There's kind of many kinds of abuses.
It needs two for tango like they will not be a resonance of a victim if there was not a perpetrator. So also analyzing what brought that person into that experience too. So in situations where women are alleging that they have been sexually abused, that you're saying that the woman might bear some responsibility? Yeah. Really?
Yeah, I've been in ceremonies not of my holding that girl comes with, like, skirts. Like mini skirts. Okay. And bringing this into this environment, like, creates, like, a reaction from the man, of course. But we're talking about a terrible crime that's incredibly traumatic being perpetrated on a woman, whether she's wearing a skirt or not. That doesn't mean she. I know, but in any way deserves that.
- I want to interject, because I think maybe, are you confused of what he’s trying to say? Do you mean when somebody is under the influence a girl is trying to influence the man? It does sound like you're a victim blaming, which is worrying if you are in a position of power. No, no, I'm not. Giving someone a powerful drug. Like there's sometimes there's a language barrier. So I don't think that's what he means.
If a woman is abused in a ceremony and she was wearing a skirt, does she bear any responsibility for that? We have to hold ourselves responsible of what experience we go into. If I go into into a cave and I fall down and I die, who is the responsible? Me? Because I entered the cave. I was feeling amazing this morning, but integration therapy has left me feeling weird. He literally said it takes two to tango, it takes two to tango, but it takes one person to commit sexual assault.
That's an absolutely crazy viewpoint from someone who's administering a powerful drug to people at their most vulnerable. He's on the drug when he performs these ceremonies. So if there's no third party there and the person administering the drug has that viewpoint, that's a pretty worrying situation. It sort of makes you think, you know, how far do those views spread amongst shamans here? And is there essentially a rape culture amongst shamans in Tulum? It's patently clear that the wellness industry is growing and growing.
Tourists don't just want to party and have an adventure. Now they want a life changing experience that's going to make them feel better. And they've found something that can potentially do that. But what used to be a substance, you had to hike into the jungle and find a shaman to administer, is now available on a main tourist high street.
I've seen the potential this drug has both in other people and myself I feel better. I feel like that truer, happier, more at peace self. The power of that medicine can't be understated, but with the substance that makes you that vulnerable, there needs to be some form of regulation, some sort of system that prevents traumatic experiences happening. Oh, miracle.