A drug that has the power to eliminate free will and wipe out memory is being dealt regularly on the streets of Colombia. Scopolamine, or ‘The Devil’s Breath,’ comes from a tree common to South America. The hazardous drug is dangerous because of its effects and also because it can be administered surprisingly easily.
Stories of the drug’s power should be enough to warn people against it. There have been reports of people getting raped, forced to empty their bank accounts, and even coerced into giving up an organ while under the influence.
Vice Magazine’s Ryan Duffy travelled to Colombia to get more information on the powerful drug. Duffy interviewed people involved in this Colombian drug culture, including dealers and victims of scopolamine.
Demencia Black, a drug dealer in Bogota, said the drug is frightening because of how easily it can be administered.
Black told Vice that, since scopolamine is odorless and tasteless, it can be blown in the face of a passerby on the street and, within minutes, that person is under the drug’s effect.
‘You can guide them wherever you want,’ he explained. ‘It’s like they’re a child.’
Black said that one gram of scopolamine is similar to one gram of cocaine, but said that the drug could also be ‘worse than anthrax.’ In high doses, scopolamine is lethal.
The drug can essentially turn people into zombies and blocks memories from forming, so even after the drug’s effects have worn off, victims will have no recollection of what happened.
One victim told Vice that a man approached her on the street asking for directions, and after she led him to his destination, they drank juice together. She then brought the man to her house and helped him gather her belongings, including her family’s valuables and savings.
‘It is painful to have lost money, but I was actually quite lucky,’ the woman said.
According to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the drug – also known as hyoscine – causes the same level of memory loss as diazepam does.
In ancient times, the drug was given to the mistresses of dead Colombian leaders and were then told to walk into their master’s grave so they could be buried alive. In more recent times, the CIA used the drug as a truth serum during the Cold War interrogations. However, the drug induces powerful hallucinations due to its chemical makeup.
The tree that the drug grows from is called the ‘borrachero’ tree – loosely translated as the ‘get-you-drunk’ tree. Although dangerous, the tree is beautiful with its large yellow and white flowers.
Experts are left confused as to why scopolamine-related crimes have been common in Colombia recently, but contribute most of it to the country’s torn drug-culture past and the on-going civil war.