Like many amphibians, B. Marinus wards off predators by secreting a toxic goo from glands in its skin. The secretion contains a compound called bufotenine, which resembles the neurotransmitter serotonin and also occurs in certain toadstools and plants. Although these bufotenine-containing substances can be lethal, they have reportedly been used as intoxicants by some "primitive" societies.
Intrigued by these accounts, U.S. researchers synthesized bufotenine and began testing it in humans - along with many other psychoactive drugs - in the 1950s . . . to gain insights into schizophrenia and other mental disorders. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency also supported the work as part of an effort to develop brainwashing agents.
[ . . . ]
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration outlawed bufotenine in the late 1960s. Ironically, the DEA's action inspired a few people to try licking live toads . . .
-- Scientific American, August 1990
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