New York City’s Poison Control Center just issued a health warning on Friday following the death of a 35-year-old man who apparently died from consuming an illegal over-the-counter aphrodisiac. Health officials are warning New Yorkers to stay away from the aphrodisiac, which is made from toad venom. Poison Control received a hospital report on Friday that a man who “ingested a hard, brown substance” died earlier this month.
The illegal toad venom—which is banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—is sold under a variety of product names including Piedra, Love Stone, Jamaican Stone, Black Stone, and Chinese Rock. The product is sold at sex shops and neighborhood stores. City officials said the unidentified man was admitted to a hospital emergency room “complaining of chest and abdominal pain” after consuming the product called Piedra, which the man had purchased in a neighborhood store. The man died two days later.
The man arrived at the emergency room within 12 hours of ingesting the illegal toad aphrodisiac and, in addition to his complaints, was also suffering from bradycardia (slow heart rate) and heart block, among other problems that indicate cardiotoxicity from ingestion of a poisonous, topical aphrodisiac containing bufadienolides and bufotenine.
According to health officials, the aphrodisiac comes in the form of a hard, brown resin. The hardened resin is made with venom from toads of the Bufo genus and contains chemicals that can disrupt heart rhythms. Also, the aphrodisiac was supposed to have been applied to the skin and not eaten; however, applying the aphrodisiac to the skin can also be harmful. “There is no definitely safe way to use it,” said Dr. Robert Hoffman, director of New York City’s Poison Control Center. Hoffman warns, “Don’t buy it. Don’t sell it. If you have it, don’t use it. Throw it out.” Ingestion and dermal—through the skin—absorption of illegal toad venom aphrodisiac can cause symptoms of digitalis poisoning that include dysrhythmias, heart block, hypotension, and vomiting.
In 2002, a similar product killed a 40-year-old man in Brooklyn and at least four other New Yorkers in the early 1990s. A 17-year-old boy also fell seriously ill as a result of consuming a similar poisonous aphrodisiac, “but survived following hours of aggressive treatment.” Following that outbreak, city investigators searched for the poisonous product in shops around the city and learned that it was being sold sporadically in grocery stores, smoke shops, and from street vendors.
Although Inspectors continue to look for the product, it is difficult to identify as the packaging is often in foreign languages. It remains unclear how available the illegal aphrodisiac is elsewhere in the U.S.; however, some similar products have been seized from suspected drug traffickers in other East Coast cities, authorities said.
Physicians with patients suspected of ingesting the illegal toad venom aphrodisiac—such patients may present as suffering from digoxin overdose—should call the New York City Poison Control Center at (212) POISONS/764-7667. The line is available 24 hours a day.