Albert Most then circulated in the underground scene of psychedelic enthusiasts.

“That might actually be the origin story,” said Alan Davis, director of Ohio State University’s Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education.

Still, some of the most influential figures in the Bufo scene have promoted Indigenous connections. Dr. Octavio Rettig, a physician from Guadalajara, Mexico, said he introduced the venom to the Seri people in northwestern Mexico in 2011 in a bid to combat crystal meth addiction.

“After they got the medicine, they started to put the puzzle together,” said Dr. Rettig, 43, citing what he believes was a rescue of the Seri’s “lost traditions.” “They recognized the benefits of the toad medicine.”

Facebook group have highlighted claims of psychological manipulation and rape against Dr. Sandoval; he has disputed them. Dr. Rettig has come under criticism over the deaths of people who have taken part in Bufo ceremonies.

Dr. Rettig acknowledged that deaths had occurred but pointed to other pre-existing health problems, like heart conditions.

“I am a physician,” said Dr. Rettig, who estimated that he had worked with thousands of people taking Bufo. “Only a madman can expect that no one will suffer any sideways consequence.”

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