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‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Drugs

By Docta, Mar 8, 2014 | | |
  1. Docta
    We’ve all seen the laundry list of side effects on advertised prescription drugs. When the startling ones are mentioned, such as suicidal thoughts, psychotic behavior, death, we may question if we’re entering a devil’s bargain to relieve an illness. Taking the drug scopolamine has made at least one user believe he literally sold his soul to the devil to get better. Scopolamine is known as “Colombian devil’s breath;” it is called “the scariest drug in the world” in a Vice documentary; and it is approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as an antinauseant.

    This isn’t to suggest your doctor is ready to give you the scariest drug in the world and set you off on a psychotic episode. Of course, different dosages have different effects, and doctors will generally give good advice on how to avoid negative side effects. But understanding the history of the ingredients in your medications can be helpful. Reading the medicinal ingredients on a pill bottle is like reading Greek for most of us. If “devil’s breath” were listed would it make you wonder what in the world you’re taking? How about scopolamine? That sounds a lot less alarming, right?

    Many of the side effects listed as a footnote on drug ads were discovered when people experienced them. Behind each “suicidal thoughts” listing, is at least one person whose life was negatively impacted by that medication. Here’s a closer look at scopolamine’s history, current use, and effects, plus a look at other medications prescribed as sleep aids, asthma treatments, smoking cessation drugs, and more.

    Devil’s Breath

    Scopolamine has been called a “zombie drug.” A person who takes it can seem to function normally and consciously, but will often be unable to remember what he did. The person will also do whatever he is told—go to an ATM and give someone all the money in his account, for example. It’s also been used as a date rape drug and as a truth serum by Colombian gangs and the CIA (the latter used it during 1960s experiments, according to John D. Marks’ book “The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate”).

    In 2007, Vice magazine correspondent Ryan Duffy went to Colombia to investigate the uses of scopolamine and documented these and other disturbing uses of the drug. The same drug was prescribed for some 60 years in the United States for a variety of ailments, including insomnia. In 1990, the FDA banned its use in sleep medication, though it is still approved today for use in anti-nauseants. The Mayo Clinic notes that, although the only approved use for scopolamine is to treat nausea, once a drug is FDA-approved it may be used to treat other ailments if it is deemed effective.

    It is used, for example, to help some people quit smoking.

    Epoch Times asked the FDA to elaborate on the concerns surrounding scopolamine that prompted the ban against its use in sleep medications. It was difficult to find detailed information, an FDA spokesperson reported. The ruling that banned it basically said its effectiveness was unclear, without giving much more information

    A 1978 assessment of the drug noted minimal study on its effects even though it had been in use for decades. This assessment stated what happened when doses were too high: “The behavioral and mental symptoms may suggest an acute organic psychosis. Memory is disturbed, orientation is faulty, hallucinations are common, and mania and delirium often occur. In some cases of scopolamine poisoning, a mistaken diagnosis of acute schizophrenia or alcoholic delirium has been made, with the individuals being committed to a psychiatric institution for observation and treatment.”

    The doses that would be effective as a sleep aid would not be safe, the report noted—even though the drug persisted on the market for another decade.

    Anecdotal Experiences With Devil’s Breath

    Erowid, a publication specializing in psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related issues, also provides a platform for members to share experiences they have had with such substances. A few members told of their experiences with scopolamine. These are anecdotal and unverified accounts, and any negative side effects may not be experienced by all users.

    In 2009, a man was prescribed scopolamine to help with motion sickness. He concluded that “it messes with your ability to discern reality from imagination.”
    “It’s not like any other drug where you remember you are on a drug. The hallucinations on belladonna alkaloids seem utterly and completely real. They cannot be separated from reality.”

    Another user tried it recreationally in 2002, at a much higher dosage, and described terrifying effects. The 1978 FDA report stated that 2.0 mg three times a day caused nightmares and other adverse effects. This man took 7 mg in one shot.

    Like the previous user mentioned, this user said the hallucinations were very real. He said they were “unlike the fanciful visions and distortions that one obtains on [other] … psychedelic drugs.” He was surrounded by living forms and felt “an oppressive force pinning him down on the bed, paralyzing him” (yes, the account is written in the third person). He continues: “Subject pledges his soul to the demon who is sitting on him in exchange for a refreshing drink of water. The demon takes his soul, doesn’t provide the agreed-upon water. Subject resigns himself to eternal damnation.”

    Some believe that certain drugs can open one up to harmful beings and demons in other realms.

    This man later regained his faculties and found himself at work speaking with a colleague. Though his memory was wiped, he had apparently completed paperwork intelligibly and done his job without drawing attention to himself for acting strangely.

    He writes: “Moral of the story: Don’t do scopolamine. … It will make you a zombie.”

    Scopolamine comes from Jimson Weed, a plant also used in Haitian zombie-making witchcraft.

    Sleep Medications

    Although scopolamine was long prescribed as a sleep medication until it was deemed too dangerous to be used as such, Ambien, a sleep medication currently often prescribed can have similar zombifying effects.

    The FDA describes some side effects of Ambien and applies the same side effects to sedative-hypnotic medications in general. “After taking Ambien, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night.” Reported activities include:

    • driving a car (“sleep-driving”)
    • making and eating food
    • talking on the phone
    • having sexual intercourse

    Other side effects include, “abnormal thoughts and behavior, … more outgoing or aggressive behavior than normal, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, worsening of depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions.”

    Anticholinergic Smoking Cessation

    Scopolamine is among the belladonna alkaloids that have anticholinergic properties derived from a family of plants that includes Jimson Weed. “Anticholinergic” refers to a substance that blocks some neurotransmitters. Anticholinergic drugs may be prescribed to help people quit smoking, or for asthma, diarrhea, or excessive salivation. In one case, a 59-year-old man who was prescribed one of these drugs to help him quit smoking was hospitalized after contemplating murdering his wife. He thought his family was against him.

    By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times | March 6, 2014


  1. TheShadowMan
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    Seen that documentary on VICE. Very scary stuff. I didn't know that it was used in ambien. Kinda explains the side effects I guess
  2. MikePatton
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    It wasn't used in Ambien. Ambien is Zolpidem. They said it might cause similiar effects...

    It's all about the dosage really, and that's why I don't see a point for this dramatic article. That said, pointing out this drug is FDA approved really highlights the paradox that surrounds the prohibition of other plants.
  3. rawbeer
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    That Vice 'documentary' is garbage. It's almost the Reefer Madness equivalent of Tropane info. I can't find a single reference to Solanaceous plants being called the Devil's Breath or Zombie drug that isn't linked to Vice, although Wade Davis did suggest that tropanes could have been used as part of the zombie drug brew he hypothesized in The Serpent and the Rainbow/Passage of Darkness. (As cool as Davis' ideas are they aren't taken very seriously in the scientific community.)

    Not that they aren't good descriptors for scopolamine. I would wholeheartedly endorse the moniker "scariest drug in the world" as well - nothing else offers any serious competition to these terrifying substances. But the Vice piece is just sensationalist journalism full of misinformation and is also seriously insulting and dismissive of Columbia. Yeah they've got problems - they are in South America after all, which has been the Northern Hemispheres' brown whipping boy for centuries, that the USA, Russia, and Europe have taken turns exploiting and abusing whenever we tire of doing the same to Africa. But Columbia has made some serious fucking headway since the 1980's when it was pretty much purely a narco state. Give them some credit!

    Some serious criticisms and scary facts can be presented about Columbia as well as Solanaceous, tropane alkaloid bearing plants like Belladonna, Brugmansia, etc. but I really have a problem with that Vice doc. I had to turn it off after a few minutes because some of the claims it was making were so absurd. I know quite a bit about Nightshades and have crossed the line with them once to know how much respect and fear they deserve but they also serve important medical purposes and can be awesome recreational substances in the hands of a very cautious and responsible users.

    Vice can produce some entertaining stuff but it's seriously questionable. I mean, the National Enquirer can be a pretty entertaining read too.
  4. Basoodler
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    ^ agreed rawbeer

    The claim that is in both vice and in this story that states:

    "A person who takes it can seem to function normally and consciously" (direct quote from the OP)

    Is about the biggest line of shit that anyone has ever passed off as drug information.

    I have experienced the wonderful world of datura, as well I have on two occasions had to rescue friends because they were walking around in public " functioning abnormally, blind as a fucking bat and having full conversations with people who only live in their subconscious"

    Actually you can't discern if its a conversation because half of the words are gibberish
  5. MikePatton
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    Yes the part about the person under the effects appearing to be normal is complete bullshit, it is very easy to tell they are heavily intoxicated.
  6. Nosferatus
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    Yes, scopalamine/atropine can cause overwhelming delerium under the right circumstances, namely massive doses, but it is not unique in it's ability to do this. Large doses of gravol and many sedating, anti-nausea, and anti-histamine medications can also do this if not used properly. There is seemingly random and arbitrary demonization of various substances usually triggered by an isolated incident or two.
  7. blondemoment
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    I have a whole bunch of this stuff in my medicine cabniet. It was given to me for nausea after one of my brain surgerys. I have never had any issues with it, but then again I always took it as prescribed. Not sure what I think about the article. Seems you could get those same side effects by abusing most drugs.
  8. rawbeer
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    ^^^ I don't think any drug is going to be as horrible as ODing on a deleriant tropane. I mean death is death, but death preceded by an eternity or hellish torment is worse than death. Nightshades deserve their reputation, but there's no need to spread misinformation like Vice has done. The truth is terrifying enough.

    Small doses are great. They can cure motion sickness, provide some spooky psychedelic fun and give you the most earth shattering orgasms of any aphrodisiac - Cannabis + Brugmansia is in my opinion the best aphrodisiac in the world. I imagine if you laid in a field during an electrical storm with a lightning rod tied to your erection and managed to get struck by a bolt it would feel similar to an orgasm on this combo!

    Stories of deleriant doses of tropanes always seem to involve demons and hellish torture. I don't know if gravol would do that. That's why I'm so scared of these drugs. I really think our concept of hell, demons, and otherworldy torture comes from the Nightshades. That's why this Vice doc pisses me off so much...you don't need to make things up or unfairly demonize these drugs, they demonize themselves!
  9. 2irishgirls
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    wow I had no idea, but this makes perfect sense. I was prescribed scopolapine for my CVS (cyclical vomiting syndrome) and had several instances where I was at different places doing all kinds of different things with little to no memory of any of it. I remember after the first one making a point to be very aware of how I was feeling when on the medication so I wouldn't have anything weird happen again but I never remember feeling strange or under the influence at all... scary stuff
  10. hoopidiupi
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    I found the transdermal scopalomine patch very useful for seasickness. I was able to enjoy being on the open ocean, and felt no untoward side effects. I hope the patches stay on the market.
  11. blondemoment
    Re: ‘Scariest Drug in the World’ and Other Surprising Ingredients in Prescription Dru

    Yup those are the ones I have. The little patch you wear behind your ear.

    I just remembered a side effect I did have while wearing the patch. One of my eye pupils became very large and the other pupil was tiny. The emergency room doctor said he sees that all the time from people who wear that patch. I had forgotten all about that. But nothing ever crazy happened to me!
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