Nathan Sepeda – 5-MEO-DMT Research, Toad Conservation and Proper Facilitation

January 15, 2019
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In this episode, Joe interviews Nathan Sepeda, a Research Coordinator at Johns Hopkins. Joe and Nathan cover topics on 5-MEO-DMT research and survey studies, the difference between synthetic and toad sourced 5-MEO-DMT, the sustainability of the Bufo Alvarius toad, and the benefits of a proper facilitator.

3 Key Points:

  1. 5-MEO-DMT is starting to gain traction in the research world. The conversation continues on whether the synthetic 5-MEO-DMT experience is any different from a 5-MEO-DMT experience sourced from the toad venom.
  2. As the popularity of 5-MEO-DMT increases, concerns about the wellbeing and sustainability of the Bufo Alvarius toad also increases.
  3. Proper facilitation has been shown to affect a person’s experience on a substance like 5-MEO-DMT. The use of a practitioner, finding the substance from a reputable source, and integration all play a critical role in the user’s experience.

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Show Notes


  • Joe found out about Nathan Sepeda and the work being done on 5-MEO-DMT after Johns Hopkins released a poster on 5-MEO-DMT
  • Alan Davis put together a survey about people’s 5-MEO-DMT experiences
  • Half of the use was recreational, and then the other half of survey participants used more of a therapeutic approach set and setting including a sitter and integration
    • The study found that the more structured the 5-MEO-DMT experience was around set and setting, the more often participants reported a more mystical experience as well as a lower likelihood of having a difficult experience
    • The survey only looked at synthetic 5-MEO-DMT
    • Using 5-MEO-DMT from a toad also runs the risk of the other toad venom constituents
  • Joe said the first time he heard about data on 5-MEO-DMT was at the Oakland Psychedelic Science Conference in 2017
    • Stan Grof had a keynote saying that 5-MEO-DMT was the future of psychiatry

Toad Conservation

  • The Bufo Alvarius toad’s population is increasingly declining
    • Joe says he knows someone who lives on the Mexican border in the Sonoran desert, and he would have toads jump into his house all the time
    • He doesn’t even see them anymore
    • Joe also mentions the toads flocking to the UV street lights, and people scooping them up or even running them over
    • “How do we do less harm to living things and treat our environment better?” – Joe

Nathan’s Role at Hopkins

  • Nathan is the Research Coordinator of Psychedelic Studies at Johns Hopkins
  • He works as an Assistant Facilitator (sitter) for the psychoactive drug sessions
  • He is involved in Psilocybin studies (currently the depression study)
  • He says he is grateful to be a part of the research, seeing people change in a matter of days from the help of the substances
  • Nathan has a background in Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Mary Cosimano is the primary facilitator for all of the studies at Johns Hopkins
    • His training consisted of mock sessions, ways to ask/answer questions, and overall hold the space
  • A lot of people will describe their experience being the most spiritual experience of their life
  • Joe asks about upset stomach with synthetic psilocybin
    • Nathan responds saying they ask patients to eat a light breakfast, but he never really sees upset stomach with synthetic psilocybin

Proper Facilitation

  • The use of a practitioner and finding the substance from a reputable source are the two biggest factors in having a great experience, along with integration
    • Nathan says that these findings are preliminary but they are a great start to data on the substance and its use
  • Joe says he is cautious about the religious affiliation people prescribe to their experience with these substances
    • It can get out of hand, there are “shamans” that taze people or throw buckets of cold water on their patients when they are on the substance
    • Waterboarding, sexual assault, all of these things speak to the value of screening practitioners
  • Joe has heard about a facilitator using an extremely high amount of 5-MEO-DMT on his patients, far above the effective dose
  • Joe mentions a story about a “shaman” who was to facilitate a session. The participant thought they were going to do standard DMT, and the shaman gave them 5-MEO-DMT instead (without the users consent)
    • Joe suggests that just because you know a reputable source for a substance, doesn’t mean they are a good facilitator

Final Thoughts

  • People can find information on the study at
  • People can apply by contacting Nathan’s team directly
    • They will have room for healthy volunteers in healthy volunteer studies in the future
    • They are currently working on “insight surveys” that are surveys asking people about their psychedelic experiences


Hopkins Psychedelic Research Website

About Nathan Sepeda

Nathan Sepeda is an assistant facilitator (or guide) for psychoactive drug sessions and research coordinator for the Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Unit. Nathan earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota studying psychology and neuroscience. His interests in addiction and mood disorders, in combination with the promising research with psychedelics, have led Nathan to Dr. Roland Griffiths’ lab. Nathan is involved in a number of projects investigating the effects of various psychedelic substances, including psilocybin, salvinorin-A, and 5-MeO-DMT.