Scopolamine, colloquially known as The Devil’s Breath, a drug that eliminates free will while leaving the victim completely articulate, is currently being dealt on the streets of Colombia.
The Devil’s Breath is derived from a particular type of tree common to South America.
Stories surrounding the drug are the stuff of urban legends, with some telling horror stories of how people were raped, forced to empty their bank accounts, and even coerced into giving up an organ.
VICE’s Ryan Duffy travelled to the country to find out more about the powerful drug. In two segments, he revealed the shocking culture of another Colombian drug world, interviewing those who deal the drug and those who have fallen victim to it.
Demencia Black, a drug dealer in the capital of Bogota, said the drug is frightening for the simplicity in which it can be administered.
He told VICE that Scopolamine can be blown in the face of a passer-by on the street, and within minutes, that person is under the drug’s effect as scopolamine is odorless and tasteless.
“You can guide them wherever you want,” he explained.
“It’s like they’re a child.”
Demencia Black said that one gram of Scopolamine is similar to a gram of cocaine, but later called it “worse than anthrax”.
In high doses, scopolamine is lethal.
The drug, he said, turns people into complete zombies and blocks memories from forming. So even after the drug wears off, victims have no recollection as to what happened.
One victim told VICE that a man approached her on the street asking her for directions. Since it was close by, she helped take the man to his destination, and they drank juice together.
The victim took the man to her house and helped him gather all of her belongings, including her boyfriend’s cameras 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.
In ancient times, the drug was given to the mistresses of dead Colombian leaders – they were told to enter their master’s grave, where they were buried alive.
In modern times, the CIA used the drug as part of Cold War interrogations, with the hope of using it like a truth serum. However, because of the drug’s chemical makeup, it also induces powerful hallucinations.
The tree common around Colombia, and is called the “borrachero” tree (Brugmansia candida) – loosely translated into the “get-you-drunk” tree.
It is said that Colombian mothers warn their children not to fall asleep under the tree, though the leafy green canopies and large yellow and white flowers seem appealing.
Experts are baffled as to why Colombia is riddled with scopolamine-related crimes, but wager much of it has to do with the country’s torn drug-culture past, and on-going civil war.