Mike Tyson smoked a drug derived from toad venom. Here’s what to know about the psychedelic that he says makes you feel like 'you die and you’re reborn.'

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesThe former boxer said he hallucinated and saw Aztec symbols, dead people, and his own life, flash before his eyes.
  • In a new GQ profile of former boxer Mike Tyson, author Alex Pappademas writes about Tyson’s first time smoking 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic drug that comes from toad venom.
  • “I was just freaking out,” Tyson told Pappademas of his experience. “It’s almost like you die and you’re reborn.”
  • People close to Tyson said the experience changed him as a person and made him more vulnerable.
  • Some research suggests 5-MeO-DMT could help treat people with anxiety and depression.
  • The drug is illegal in most places, however, so research into its potential has been limited.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

It’s no secret that former boxer Mike Tyson has tried his fair share of drugs, but until recently, one psychedelic drug had yet to make his list: 5-MeO-DMT.

In a new GQ profile of Tyson, author Alex Pappedemas chronicles Tyson’s first time trying the drug, which is derived from toad venom and can also be made synthetically.

Tyson reportedly tried the drug when gynecologist Gerardo Sandoval offered it to him. After Dr. Sandoval told Tyson that a 5-MeO-DMT trip felt “like freebase jumping into the heart of God and coming back, in just 20 minutes,” the two of them smoked the substance together.

Tyson told Pappedemas that he was excited to try the drug, since he’s already tried so many substances, including acid, cocaine, and other “heavy drugs.’ But once Tyson started tripping, he said he thought he was dying.

“I was just freaking out,” Tyson told Pappedemas. “I don’t wanna do this no more. I want it to stop. Too late. Couldn’t stop. I thought, I f-cked up. Oh, sh-t. I f-cked up. What was I trying to prove? I’m dead. I’m dead. It’s over. My whole life. Boom. My life is gone. I took these f-cking drugs and it killed me. There’s no way I’m gonna survive this.

The former boxer also said he hallucinated and saw Aztec symbols, dead people, and his own life flash before his eyes.

The psychedelic drug’s unique characteristics could make it a promising treatment for anxiety and depression

Tyson isn’t alone in his earth-shattering experience with the psychedelic drug.

A small 2018 study in Frontiers of Psychology found that 75% of participants given 50 mg of 5-MeO-DMT in the form of a vapour reported having “mystical experiences.”

Although they are similar in name and both classified as psychedelics, 5-MeO-DMT and DMT are not the same drug. The former is known to be four to six time more powerful than DMT.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University believe the drug has special promise because compared to other psychedelics like psilocybin, trips on 5-MeO-DMT are relatively short. A psilocybin or “magic” mushroom trip tends to be seven to eight hours long, while a 5-MeO-DMT trip clocks in around 30 to 90 minutes, according to Alan K. Davis, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Behavioural Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead author of the 2018 study.

“It could be much easier to use as an adjunct to therapy because current therapies usually involve a 60 to 90 minute session,” Davis said in a release.

In fact, a more recent study from Davis suggests the drug could help people cope with self-reported anxiety and depression. The 2019 study looked at 362 people who reported feeling depressed or anxious. After they tripped on 5-MeO-DMT, 80% said they noticed a reduction in their depression and 79% said they noticed the same in their anxiety symptoms.

In the profile, one of Tyson’s friends and colleagues, former NFL player Eben Britton, said he noticed Tyson also felt different after his trips, and believed the boxer’s 5-MeO-DMT experiences made him into a more open person.

5-MeO-DMT is illegal in the United States and decriminalized only in Oakland, California, making further research into its potential as a depression treatment difficult.

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