Scopolamine: The most dangerous drug you’ve never heard of.
Scopolamine is a plant derivative in and around the family of nightshade plants. The drug, called scopolamine, also known as ‘The Devil’s Breath,’ comes from a type of tree common in Colombia called the Borrachero tree. The word “Borrachero,” which roughly translates to “get-you-drunk,” grows wild in Bogota, Colombia.
Scopolamine is most normally used for the prevention of nausea and motion sickness. Although recently the drug scopolamine has gotten the title of the most dangerous drug, well, ever. Scopolamine when taken for its normal purposes and in minute amounts is relatively harmless. It can be taken orally, subcutaneously, intravenously, via a transdermal patch and opthalmically. In the past Scopolamine has also been used for more than motion sickness it has also been used to treat addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The patient would be given frequent doses of Scopolamine until they withdrew from the drug and then were maintained for two or three days and treated with Pilocarpine. After they recovered they were supposedly no longer addicted.
Scopolamine is also used recreationally although it is not used often due to very unpleasant hallucinations that are associated with it so the repeated recreational use of scopolamine is rare.
So you may be wondering why is scopolamine so dangerous? Because scopolamine can knock you out cold pretty quick and leave you with no free will. It is odorless, tasteless, and nearly invisible and you will have no memory after taking it or having it slipped in your drink. Many criminals have been using scopolamine to induce a kind of amnesia and powerlessness in their victims. Scopolamine is like the date rape drug but worse because victims are left with no memory and power to control themselves whatsoever. Scopolamine can easily be administered too. Scopolamine can come in a powder form and be blown in someone’s face, slipped in a drink, laced in a cigarette, food, etc. So it makes it more than easy for criminals to prey on unknowing victims.
Vice recently ran a story on this drug and they interviewed a woman named Carolina who recounted how she was made to rob her own house after being given the drug. She said the worst part of the experience was being a victim after just trying to be good and help others.
“On my way to catch the bus a man stopped me and asked for directions. He asked me if I knew the address and showed me a piece of paper. I knew it was very close by so I ended up taking him where he wanted to go. We drank some juice and that’s when I think he gave me the scopolamine. In the drink. I was taken to my house. I live very near by. I grabbed a few things and then I ramsacked the entire house. I was so happy ransacking everything. I knew that my boyfriend had some savings. So I went through everything until I found the envelope. Unfortunately, I found it. It was full of dollars and euros. They were savings he had kept for a long time. He was a photographer so I gave away his cameras too. I took as much as I could. I was happy searching and wanted to continue. When I realized what happened I started crying and went straight to the police station which was four blocks away. I was screaming, I had a panic attack. Fortunately, I only received a small dose and they only took the money from my apartment. It’s painful to have lost money but I was actually quite lucky. If they had been even worst people, I might have been raped in my apartment or anything.”
So how does this happen? How can a drug have the potential to leave a person without memory and the inability to exercise free-will?
Memories are facilitated through a brain chemical called acetylcholine. When Scopolamine comes onboard it competes with acetylcholine, wins the competition and blocks the acetylcholine receptor in the brain, so that the lock and key fit isn’t made. This lock and key fit — lock (acetylcholine receptor) fit with the key (brain chemical acetylcholine) — is important in how you make memories. What we remember goes through three key stages: the initial making of the memory (encoding), creation of long-term memories (storage/consolidation) and recall (retrieval). Scopolamine blocks the first stage, memory encoding, which takes place in the hippocampus – an area critical for memory. In other words, the information never gets stored in the first place.
So you can understand why scopolamine is so popular with criminals such as rapists and robbers. But what makes it popular for criminals makes it troubling for police. According to Reuters, since scopolamine completely blocks the formation of memories, unlike most date-rape drugs used in the United States and elsewhere, it is usually impossible for victims to ever identify their aggressors.
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