BY: VICTORIA STUNT
You’re alone in a grey city plaza in the centre of Bogota, Colombia when a man comes to sit beside you. You get to chatting and after a while, he offers you a cigarette. You accept, and take a drag.
The next things you remember only come in flashes:
You’re putting all of your mother’s expensive jewelry into a bag. You open the safe and take out a wad of cash. You unplug your television and bring it downstairs.
Later, you find out the man from the plaza, and now a second man, waited outside your family home in a car. You brought them everything. They asked you to, and you obliged. No problemo.
Looks like you’ve been drugged with scopolamine.
It’s a tasteless and odourless powder that basically renders its victims into zombies. With the drug, people lose free will, and can be convinced to do, well, anything.
Scopolamine is a tasteless and odourless powder that when blown in a victims face causes them to lose free will , and allows them to be convinced to do anything. Those drugged rob their own homes, withdraw their own savings, and in some cases even give up their own children.
Photo: Real Madrid
Under the influence of what Colombians call the “devil’s breath,” and what a Vice documentary calls the “world’s scariest drug,” victims do not seem as if they have been drugged at all. This is perhaps the most frightening part.
“You can guide them wherever you want,” said Bogota drug dealer Demencia Black in the 2012 documentary. “It’s like they’re a child.”
In 2013, Colombian police reported 1,186 cases occurred in the country. Almost half happened in the capital city Bogota.
“They go out and party and then wake up two or three days later on a park bench,” said Maria Fernanda Villota, a nurse at San Jose University Hospital in Bogota to GlobalPost.ca. “They arrive here without their belongings or their money.”
Most cases go unreported. One in four victims in 2013 were men, and oftentimes it’s attractive women or sex workers who drug them while at a bar.
But the drug doesn’t only come out at bars. It’s airborne, and a criminal only needs to blow it in a victims face to render them powerless.
In December 2012, a 7 year-old girl from the department of Antioquia, Colombia, was kidnapped when her parents fell victim to the drug. The parents had opened the gate of their farm to a couple that asked for water.
The girl was returned in February, two months later.
“You can guide them wherever you want,” said Bogota drug dealer Demencia Black in the 2012 documentary. “It’s like they’re a child.” In 2013, Colombian police reported 1,186 Scopolamine abuse cases. Almost half happened in the capital city Bogota.
Much earlier in the 1980s, a Colombian diplomat was caught smuggling cocaine into Chile. He was found to be under the influence of scopolamine, and charges were later dropped.
“I can give you a gun and tell you to go kill someone and you will do it,” said Camilo Uribe, a toxicologist and expert on the drug, to GlobalPost.ca.
He said scopolamine blocks neurotransmitters that carry information to the part of the brain that stores short term memory, so the brain doesn’t record what a person has done.
This makes it virtually impossible to catch the criminals.
The drug is derived from the borrachero tree, which grows openly in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Vice shows a tree growing on a Bogota side street, apparently around the corner from a school. The tree also grows in the Bogota Botanical Garden.
The tree is actually quite appealing. It’s the size of a fruit tree, has lush leaves, and white blooming flowers.
But please, no matter how appealing, do as Colombian mothers warn: Do not fall asleep under the borrachero tree.