I found purpose in life tripping on toad venom: What it’s like

Victoria Barbara’s life has been split in two: Dark decades of secret misery before she tripped on trendy toad venom — and the enlightened bliss she claims came after.

The glamorous influencer with nearly 1 million Instagram followers told The Post she owes her psychological transformation to psychedelic “Bufo therapy.” That’s when adventurous folks inhale the vapors of toxic toad milk, launching them into what proponents describe as a, well, mind-splitting journey of self discovery.

Thanks to this ancient medicinal practice, led by a discreet spiritual guide — or shaman — in the remote foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Barbara said, “I realized I had purpose in life.”

That’s why she’s hyping Bufo now: “The majority of 1-percenters know about this — but they don’t talk about it. Which is kind of sad,” Barbara told The Post of the controversial treatment named after the toad’s scientific moniker. (The Bufo has since been rechristened Incilius alvarius.)

Yes, the luxury fashionista and philanthropist based in Los Angeles lives the sort of lifestyle that most only dream of replete with a sprawling modern home in the hills with jaw-dropping panoramic views, a successful Swedish investor for a fiancé, and a personal invitation from Vogue chief Anna Wintour for breakfast at the Ritz Paris.

But less than a year ago, not even the high-life could lift Barbara out of deep depression.

Fashion influencer Victoria Barbara, 40, suffered depression and thoughts of suicide before she inhaled Bufo, the venomous vapors of the Incilius alvarius toad, under the guidance of shaman Rosa Ma Aguilar Cruz.
NY Post composite/Getty Images/@Rosa-Ma-Aguilar-Cruz
Victoria Barbara selfie
Victoria Barbara posing for a selfie on her way to a star-studded gala dinner for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in March. “I believed everything that I was ever told,” she told The Post of her abusive life before tripping on toad venom. “I believed I was s – – t.”
Instagram @officialvictoriabarbara

‘I believe that every human on the planet should do Bufo once a year … If people understood what the medicine is for, we’d all be healed.’

Victoria Barbara, touting the mysterious powers of toad venom

“I preferred being in dark rooms all the time. I didn’t want to be seen,” the stunning 40-year-old Cubana told The Post. Orphaned as a toddler, Barbara said her fractured childhood included years of mental and physical abuse “in the ugliest ways possible” from relatives and caretakers, until she broke free at 18.

Her trauma festered as she navigated adulthood without a loving foundation, leading her to “sabotage” relationships and push people away. “I believed everything that I was ever told,” she said of her abusers. “I believed I was s – – t.”

Surrendering to love with her partner of five years is what finally moved her to open up and seek treatment for her depression, but traditional talk therapy wasn’t helping. After two years of work with a veteran psychologist, she found her mood “worse than ever.”

“Imagine reliving all your childhood [trauma] after never speaking about it for 20 years,” she implored. “Opening up,” Barbara said, was pushing her “back in a hole,” leaving her in tears every day. “I was afraid of [my psychologist] because I was hurting too much.”

 Victoria Barbara
Victoria Barbara was recently spotted sporting Givenchy outside the French fashion house’s show during Paris fashion week on March 6.
Getty Images For ABA
Victoria Barbara arrives at Rihanna's 5th Annual Diamond Ball Benefitting The Clara Lionel Foundation
Victoria Barbara’s high profile sightings — as seen here arriving at Rihanna’s charity Diamond Ball in 2019 — belie her precarious and abusive childhood.
Sipa USA via AP

Barbara was spiraling, ready to try anything. Then, she met a New Age follower who introduced her to an intriguing therapy.

“She says, ‘This will help you live your life,’ ” Barbara recalled of the woman who led her to a Bufo therapy practitioner. Feeling nothing left to lose, Barbara traveled to the small town of Mariposa in central California to see Rosa Ma Aguilar Cruz, who would be her spiritual guide while tripping toad milk for up to $1,500 a ride.

The Incilius alvarius toad is native to the Sonoran desert, which stretches across the Southwestern US, particularly along the Colorado River, and down into Mexico. Their intoxicating secretions, which ooze from their amphibian skin, contains 5-MeO-DMT (or O-methyl-bufotenine) — the so-called “God Molecule.” The potent psychoactive compound is said to help alleviate depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, although scientists don’t fully understand why.

The substance is scraped from its back in a process some call “toad tickling,” which activates its venomous glands. The toxin can be consumed by simply licking the toad — a practice immortalized in a cartoon — but the safest approach is the one Barbara’s shaman took, via smoking through a pipe.

Barbara was told to take three hits. “You just go one,” she said while making a sucking sound, “two, and one the third — poof, you’re gone.”

Incilius alvarius toad
The Incilius alvarius toad produces an intoxicating venom containing the psychoactive ingredient 5-MeO-DMT (or O-methyl-bufotenine). The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) deems 5-MeO-DMT a Schedule I controlled substance, effectively making it illegal to manufacture, buy, possess or distribute.
Getty Images

She struggles to describe the feeling. “You just go like a torpedo,” said Barbara of her dreamlike descent into her mind. During its most intense moments, she said, “I was trying to fly on the floor. I kept lifting my arms like wings.”

A voice — Rosa — told Barbara to “vuela,” urging her to “fly” towards “the most beautiful white light.” She interpreted these moments as a “death experience.” Then came a “powerful feeling of gratitude.”

Many Bufo puffers report having “died” during their trip — namely celebrity toadies such as Mike Tyson, 55, Chelsea Handler, 47, and even First Son Hunter Biden, 51. In the psychological research community, this commonly shared experience is called ego-dissolution, or simply ego death. It’s a well-documented effect of psychedelic drugs — as opposed to cocaine or alcohol — although access to such substances is limited to research as the possession of psychedelics could lead to felony charges in some cases.

Rosa
Rosa Ma Aguilar Cruz is a Bufo therapy practitioner from Mariposa, California. She charges as much as $1,500 for attendance to one of her healing retreats.
@Rosa-Ma-Aguilar-Cruz

Bufo circulates under the government’s radar, available predominantly to the ones willing to brave the pitch black desert and seek the nocturnal toad in its native habitat. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) deems 5-MeO-DMT a Schedule I controlled substance, effectively making it illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute. But knowledge of its powerful effects has endured at least since ancient Meso-American civilizations first recorded mythological representations of toads.

Hardly 20 minutes after those three fateful breaths, Barbara’s journey was done. When she opened her eyes, Rosie, her husband, a few choice confidantes were there “dressed in white” to welcome her back. “I don’t even know what happiness was until that moment.”

“You feel like you’re just reborn,” she elaborated through tears, in a process she called “ascension.” It wasn’t long before she tried it again — this time at the beach, which yielded even more incredible results. Barbara, who claimed she had never learned to swim, suddenly “swam like a fish” just moments after her second ascension on Bufo. “They had to go in the water and get me out.”

Victoria Barbara
Taken three days before her first Bufo retreat, Victoria Barbara says this image captures the sadness behind her eyes.

Everything about Barbara’s mood changed after that. “I don’t even think about it anymore,” she said of her traumatic memories.

However, there’s a case for keeping it underground. Conservationists don’t like the idea of psychonauts trampling through fragile ecosystems, already threatened by human activity and climate change, in search of their next big trip. And while their venom can be harvested without harming the toad, irresponsible poachers have been blamed for disturbing their natural migratory patterns by removing the creatures from their homes, or worse. (Insiders told The Post horror stories of clogged venom glands and infected toads, over-milked and left to die in the desert by amateur Bufo practitioners.)

Meanwhile, a black market for potentially dangerous lab-synthesized 5-MeO-DMT has also circulated among recreational users.

There are known lethal outcomes to using Bufo in combination with other plants, namely ayahuasca, according to the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service (ICEERS). Also not to be ignored: the very real risk of blowing one’s mind. A trip like that can make a person do unpredictable things, and while it could be a transcendent experience for some, it could be overwhelming and frightening for others.

Barbara hopes to see others get the psychological help they need — by whatever means necessary. “I believe that every human on the planet should do Bufo once a year. Just to reprogram yourself from whatever negativity you went through that year,” she insisted — adding that she’s referred 18 individuals already in just a couple years.

“If people understood what the medicine is for, we’d all be healed,” said Barbara.

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