According to How Amazonian Tree Frog Poison Became the Latest Treatment for Addiction

The use of kambo—the poison of a bright green frog—is on the rise as an alternative treatment for depression and drug dependency.

  • Is it dangerous?
  • Does it work?
  • 3
    A pertinent quote from the linked article: "and regardless of whether or not it is scientifically proven to work, the anecdotal evidence of it helping certain people work through depression or alcohol abuse issues, even if for just a few months, can't be ignored." That's not the kind of statement that signals great reliability in assertions.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 16:18
  • @BenBarden or lazy research... I'm also interested in the is it dangerous part... Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


According to professor Chris Shaw, who was interviewed in the article you linked, the evidence for Kambo's effectiveness is a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. "Kambo is not scientifically proven for treatment." I do not find anything that can contradict his statement.

My first stop is to check Dr. Shaw's credentials. Many bad science reporting articles cannot find a legitimate expert, so they find someone with fake or tangential expertise. The Vice article accurately describes his position. Vice also accurately described him as a researcher who has studied frog skin secretions in the past. He should be more qualified than any random person on Stack Exchange to read the available evidence and comment on its quality. Reading ALL of the available evidence is a TON of work. I doubt that he did a careful and thorough literature review before his interview with Vice.

The frog's poison contains deltorphin which is "a very potent and highly specific agonist of the δ-opioid receptor." In more plain English, an active ingredient in Kambo poison activates a chemical pathway in your brain. This pathway is involved in many things, including alcohol addiction. This scientific article suggests that drugs that target this pathway may be useful in treating addiction, but it does not mention deltorphin specifically.

I did a search of the scientific literature and I cannot find anything about using deltorphinto treat addiction.

This paper showed that normal mice were addicted after exposure to deltorphin. In the Vice article Dr. Shaw said this might be the case. This article found that deltorphin analogues interact with cocaine addiction. I am not clear on what the authors say the interaction is. Both of these studies were done on mice, and are probably only weakly relevant for human use.

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