Brugmansia species have been part of scare stories since 2010, commonly used in Columbian indigenous tribes in the Amazon Rainforest as a part of the plant brew Ayahuasca the plant goes by the name of Borrachero, Borracho meaning drunk, or the drunken tree, tribes such as Canelo, Chibcha, Choco, Guambiano, Ingano, Jivaro, Kamsa, Mapuche, and Muisca often used the plant in rituals to communicate with the death, predict the future and discipline children with bad behavior, in the Juruna mythology is said that once a man passed by a Brugmansia specie and was drawn in to many days of visions, which made him become a powerful Shaman (Voogelbreinder 2009).

Brugmansia species found in a luxury tailor’s garden in Lisbon.

Outside the indigenous use the plant has been given the nickname of the Devil’s trumpet and been a part of several urban myths such as a drug that Zombiefy whoever enters in contact with the plant’s main alkaloid Scopolamine or burundanga, after entering in contact one becomes apathetic, into a zombie-like state where the attacker will do anything he pleases, from emptying your bank account, kidnapping, stealing organs, to rape, giving it it’s second media born name the Rape Drug.

However, according to several chemists, the idea of blowing powder into one’s face causing these effects seems pretty much botched and there’s no such evidence throughout the years of usage for research.

The active compound of the plant Scopolamine has also been used by Political forces and Army. The first historical evidence of the compound as a “truth serum” dates back to 1916, the obstetrician Robert House, firstly noticed that one of his patients still in a semi-conscious limbo always replied to his questions truthfully, this unique result brought the hypothesis of using the substance in interrogations for suspected Criminals. In 1992 two convicts from Dallas County volunteered to test this hypothesis, confirming it.

Scopolamine 3d model

The name “Truth Serum” was firstly depicted by the Media, despise that the substance is neither a Serum nor ambiguous evidence that it would be able to extract the truth from someone regardless.

Josef Mengele was a mentionable example of the use of the substance in the army, a German Schutzstaffel officer ( the major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Nazi Germany), had the nickname of the Angel of Death for its use of Scopolamine to aid his interrogations during the World War II, there were also extensive rumors that the Nazis tried Mescaline on inmates in Dachau concentration camp to force them to tell them their secrets.

These peculiar studies got the interest from the CIA and the US Army and extensively explored the behavioral effects of several psychedelics like LSD, synthetic cannabinoids, and Mescaline in the 50s and 60s, known as the project MK-ULTRA, this project was described in detail by the Psychiatrist and member of the US Medical Corps James S.Ketchum in his book “Chemical Warfare Secrets Almost Forgotten: A Personal Story of Medical Testing of Army Volunteers with Incapacitating Chemical Agents During the Cold War (1955-1975)” including several reports of experiments of various psychedelics in the US army during the Cold War in volunteers to turn them into chemical weapons and a chemical going by the name BZ chemically known as 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate.

Excerpts from the book:

“While recovering, the BZ-intoxicated subject tends to deny that he is impaired and tries to make excuses for errors or failures during testing or questioning. The casual examiner may be fooled into thinking that little or no impairment is present. During this period, the overall demeanor and manner of acting is sometimes reminiscent of paranoid schizophrenia. “

“…One intriguing finding is the frequent report by subjects, both during and after recovery from the drug experience, of the illusion of red coloration of the skin, both their own and that of undrugged personnel who are with them. One or two individuals have thought their hands were bleeding when washing them under the tap. Whether this is an optical phenomenon related in some way to engorgement of retinal blood vessels or is central in origin is not known. …”

The term Truth Serum was then applied to a various range of Pharmaceuticals from Barbiturates and Anesthetics, this practice took the name of Narcoanalysis and became common in various confessions in Police departments across the United States.

The testing of Scopolamine as a Truth Serum was yet to be over, the Office of Experiments, an organization with huge entanglement with the Project MKULTRA, conducted by Neal White (UK), N55 (DK), Steve Rowell (USA), Tina O’Connell (UK & Ireland), Lisa Haskell (UK), Rob Smith (UK) and Anna Troisi (I/UK), Luce Choules (UK), Dr Kathrin Soldhju (DE), Professor Gail Davies (UK), Dr Dominic Walker (UK), Dr Nicholas Langlitz (DE/USA) Erik Kearney (IE) and Bill Thompson (US/UK) with Rob La Frenais, Nicola Triscott, Anna Santamoro, Claudia Lastra, Lala Thorpe, Ross Roberston and others at Arts Catalyst tested the substance as a Truth Serum in 2004. The Office of Experiments was conducted in Liverpool on Saturday 29 March 2008 on a secret revenue and had the plan of recruiting healthy volunteers to self-experiment, the attendees at the performance also needed to be verified and undergo an interrogation under the influence of the Serum to become an official member of the Office.

Truth Serum: Casino Foundation for Contemporary Art, Luxembourg

The self-experimentation confronts the subjects with questions such as “Do you believe that the Serum will work?”, “Which truths did they have to hide and from whom”, “Can they trust the interrogator?” and “If they will use the drug responsibly” the experiments made the subjects go under paranoia alike stress situations. The experience of the participants is meant to be transformative and be able to explore the rationale in “the non-verbal state”.

Regarding the connotation by the media, several countries continue to indulge the plant for its beauty as an ornament and cultivation experience, the seeds continue to be widely available for sale, and the main Alkaloid of the plant Scopolamine it’s not considered a controlled substance under the DEA list, and has been advertised often by media and marketing teams with a global market value predicted to Surpass US$ 563.3 Million by 2026, for its medical use as a transdermal patch under the brand name Transderm Scop® to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness or medications used during surgery.


Schultes and Raffauf. The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of Northwest Amazonia. 1996

Colombia: Beware the zombie drug By John Otis

The Office of Experiments’ Truth Serum Threat: Notes on the Psychopharmacology of Truthfulness by Nicolas Langlitz

Josef Mengele by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica


James S.Ketchum – Chemical Warfare Secrets Almost Forgotten: A Personal Story of Medical Testing of Army Volunteers with Incapacitating Chemical Agents During the Cold War (1955-1975) – Truth Serum – Office Of Experiments, 2008

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