Devil’s Breath – World’s Scariest Drug?

Robberies. They’re a messy business. We’ve  all heard the gruesome tabloid stories of   tweakers with cheap handguns shooting up a liquor  store for twenty bucks and a fistful of change.   Or maybe the knock-out mugger, arrested  after a string of robberies and assaults,  

Going to jail for half a decade for money  a white collar criminal triples in an   hour. These things happen so often in the US  that they barely even make the news anymore,   and often end up ruining the lives of  both the victim and the perpetrator.

But let’s see how a Colombian pro does it  without even needing to carry a weapon.   A pro like Demencia Black, the street name of a  Bogota drug dealer interviewed by Vice in 2012.   Demencia doesn’t need to carry a gun or a knife,  because he’s packing something even more deadly:  

A fistful of Devil’s Breath, a chemical  compound dubbed the World’s Scariest Drug by   many. And today, you’re going to find out  why it’s earned such a terrifying reputation. Let’s say Demencia wants to rob a man for all  he’s worth. He’ll spot his target – perhaps a  

Businessman boozing at a local night club  without a care in the world. The kind of   guy with a Swiss watch and a Platinum American  Express Card, both of which he loves to flaunt. When nobody is looking, Demencia will  stroll towards his target with a smile,  

Wearing a casual t-shirt and shorts – hardly the  most intimidating outfit for a hardened criminal.   But you don’t need to look scary when you have the  Devil’s Breath on your side. It’s a fine, white   powder, similar to cocaine in appearance. But its  effects are an order of magnitude more potent.

Demencia taps his mark on the shoulder,  and when the yuppie turns to look at him,   Demencia raises his hand – a scoop  of Devil’s Breath nestled in his   palm – and blows it into his victim’s  face. By this point, it’s already over.

In Demencia’s own words, from the aforementioned  Vice documentary, “With just that flash the   person is totally drugged. You wait a minute  and when you see it kick in, then you know   that you own that person. You can guide them  wherever you want. It’s like they’re a child.”

And for Demencia, this robbery truly  is like taking candy from a baby.   He tells the drugged businessman  to get up and follow him,   and the businessman does exactly as  he is told without a single complaint. The two of them take an evening  stroll to a local ATM, and the  

Businessman happily empties his entire  bank account for Demencia. After all,   people high on the Devil’s Breath  aren’t exactly famous for saying “No.”   By the time the transaction is over, Demencia  has made the kind of score your average American   stick-up man can only dream of. And he  did it without even carrying a weapon.

A lot of stories about the Devil’s Breath – also  known by its scientific names Scopolamine and   Hyoscine – play out exactly like this. Whether  they’re true or scary urban legends, they often   follow the template of a manipulative criminal  using the drug to make someone do something  

They wouldn’t normally consent to. Because the  drug is synthesized from a number of plants,   including a type of nightshade common  in the upper region of South America,   it’s become a favorite among shady  characters in the Colombian underworld.

One famous and often repeated example is a man  meeting a beautiful woman in a club one evening,   and deciding to take her home to his Bogota  apartment. However, when he woke up the   next morning, he found that the woman was  gone and his apartment was totally empty.  

Furious, he went downstairs to ask the doorman  what had happened. The doorman told him that a   van had pulled up in front of the building in  the middle of the night, and he and the woman   had loaded all of his possessions into the van.  He asked the doorman why he didn’t say something,  

And the doorman said that he had. The man had just  said it was fine, and he knew what he was doing. He would later find that the Devil’s  Breath had been slipped into his drink   back at the bar, and he’d entered a state  so suggestible that he was willing to be  

An accomplice in the wholesale  burglary of his own apartment. And sadly, robbery is not the full extent  of the drug’s use in a criminal context.   There have been a disturbingly large  number of reports of the Devil’s Breath   being used to facilitate forced  consent in sexual assaults,  

In place of the perennial drug  rohypnol, commonly known as “roofies.” Some incredibly sensational reports  have even claimed that scopolamine is   being used to incapacitate victims for organ  harvesting operations. Though to be honest,   that last one is most likely about as true  as the hook handed man on lover’s lane,  

Or the killer hiding in the back seat. The same goes for stories of criminals  somehow soaking the drug into business   cards and passing them to unwilling victims.  As scary as the thought would be – or just the  

Thought of having to talk to any stranger for  long enough to get their business card – it’s   unlikely that there’s any truth to it. There  just isn’t much of a pharmacological basis   for dangerous quantities of the compound  being soaked into the skin through those  

Means. But of course, the truth has never  gotten in the way of a good horror story. It’s a global tradition to move between  eras of drug hysteria every few years,   with one fashionable drug at a time typically  being labeled the “world’s scariest drug.”  

Typically, these drugs are connected  to a huge number of horror stories,   and given supposed effects that sound  like something out of a scary movie. In the 1980s and 1990s, people across the US were  terrified that PCP or “Angel Dust” was turning  

Drug addicts into unstoppable, superpowered  killing machines. A few decades later, after the   high profile cannibalistic attack of Rudy Eugene  – the so-called “Miami Zombie” – on Ronald Poppo,   people were calling Bath Salts  the “Zombie Drug.” Despite the   fact Eugene was never actually shown to have  the drug in his system during the incident.

A wide variety of other drugs have  been given this same treatment,   from Flakka to Krokodil, and the  Devil’s Breath is no exception. However, even if some of the tales of Devil’s  Breath terror are exaggerated, or the product   of tall tales told by drug dealers  getting high off their own supply,  

Scopolamine is still a genuinely  dangerous drug when abused. In 2015, the US’s Overseas Security Advisory  Council gave an unofficial estimate that there   are 50,000 scopolamine related incidents  in South America every year. Naturally,   this has put the fear into potential vacationers  considering a Colombian getaway – and likely  

Caused a few sleepless nights for members  of the Bogota tourist board as a result. Scopolamine can have incredibly toxic  effects on the body in high enough doses.   Many scientists believe that scopolamine depresses  the central nervous system, and can lead to a bevy  

Of side effects from hallucinations, to severe  drowsiness, to dry mouth, cardiac arrhythmia, and   amnesia. If you overdose on this stuff and can’t  find treatment in time, it’s extremely likely you   won’t live to see tomorrow. And when the elderly  are given the drug, it massively increases the  

Risk of dementia. So even if it doesn’t turn  you into a zombie on the spot, the drug can   rob you of your mind and cognitive faculties  in even more terrifying ways in the long run. You’d much rather deal with Demencia  Black, the Colombian drug dealer,  

Than the kind of degenerative dementia that  turns your life into a living hell over time. However, there is another side to  scopolamine that will probably surprise you.   Namely, the fact that it has a wide  variety of medicinal uses, even today.

Despite mainly coming into fashion as the “scary  South American mind control drug” in the last   two decades, scopolamine actually has a long  and storied history. Early, unrefined forms of   scopolamine and Hyoscine have been in use by  various cultures for thousands of years. For  

Example, the Aboriginal people of Australia – the  oldest continuous culture on earth today – have   long used similar chemicals from the soft corkwood  tree in Bush Medicine. And because of the powerful   psychoactive properties of Hyoscine, it has  also been used for spiritual purposes across  

The globe for thousands of years, inducing states  of ritualistic religious hallucination in users. It entered popular Western medical use in  the late 1800s, pioneered first by German   scientist Albert Ladenburg and later suggested as  a medical anesthetic by surgeon Dr. Schneiderlin.  

Because of its wide array of effects, the drug  was tried out for various purposes throughout   the 19th and 20th Centuries. It came into  use as a popular anesthetic for childbirth,   an antidote to gastrointestinal spasms, and an  effective treatment for postoperative nausea  

And vomiting. That last one is actually  still one of its most common uses today. Scopolamine and similar chemical compounds  have been used to stave off nausea for over   a century now. From tribal chiefs to the Allies  in World War II storming the beaches of Normandy,  

These chemicals have proven to be the  most effective in staving off seasickness.   But it isn’t just the sea that a small dose of  scopolamine can make a world of difference in.   Most scientists agree that scopolamine is the  gold standard when it comes to preventing all  

Kinds of motion sickness, and wearing a  small, prescription scopolamine patch can   make your travels far smoother  than they’ve ever been before. But hey, this video is called “The World’s  Scariest Drug”, not “The Drug That’ll Stop   You Getting Seasick.” Are there any other  frightening uses of scopolamine? The answer  

To that question is “Absolutely.” It goes without  saying that Colombian drug cartels are unsavory   people – vicious, ruthless outlaws who’ll do  anything to turn a profit. And if that involves   pedaling and using drugs like scopolamine, so be  it. But imagine if the drug’s scary, mind-bending  

Properties were used by a violent gang in full  cooperation with its country’s government? This exact situation played out during the  mid-to-late 20th Century in the Czech Republic,   thanks to an extremely frightening group  called State Security, colloquially referred   to as the Czech Secret Police. Much like the  East-German Stasi, this group was a ruthless,  

Repressive arm of the Soviet puppet-state. They  would spy, intimidate, torture, and murder to   keep their masters in power. And like a lot of  thugs working for repressive government regimes,   a big part of their job was forcing confessions  out of perceived enemies of the state.  

And like a cheesy Bond villain, you better believe  that these guys had ways of making you talk. Of course, while State Security were more than  happy to grab the rubber batons and bolt cutters   for some good, old-fashioned torture, they also  liked to mix it up a little. In the early 1900s,  

Hyoscine had often been used as a kind  of truth serum, but was soon discontinued   due to some of the unpleasant side effects  we’ve already discussed. But State Security   weren’t all that into human rights for their  prisoners, so they had no problems with using  

A little of the Devil’s Breath on their political  prisoners to make them more open to suggestion. It’s extremely likely that the answers  produced by this method of questioning were   unreliable to incoherent, but again, it’s  not like they really cared either way.   As long as they got somebody, they were happy.

And that is the story of the Devil’s Breath,  a semi-legendary drug favored by eccentric   Colombian robbers, sufferers of motion sickness,  and shadowy agents of the Czech secret police.   Is it the scariest drug in the world?  We’ll leave that up for you to decide,  

Given that much of its most terrifying stories  exist somewhere in the murky space between fact   and fiction. But either way, if Demencia Black  is walking towards us with a handful of powder,   we’ll definitely be making a swift  exit before he gets too close.

Now check out “Cocaine vs Heroin – Which Drug Is  More Dangerous (Drug Addiction)?” and “How Did He   Become the King of Cocaine – Pablo Escobar”  for more facts about some gnarly narcotics.

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