Scopolamine ‘Devil’s Breath’ – The Deadly Drug Used to Rob Kenyans.
By Dr Ali Omar
Scopolamine also known as Hyoscine or ‘Devil’s Breath’ is a drug used to treat motion sickness and post-operative nausea and vomiting among other medical uses. Its common side effect is sleepiness which is used commonly by criminals to commit crimes with the hope that the victim becomes unconscious or unable to effectively resist robbery.
Scopolamine is derived from the flower of the Borrachero shrub, common in the South American country of Colombia. In Colombia, 50,000 criminal incidents of Scopolamine usage are being reported yearly.
Scopolamine is been used for criminal activities in Kenya especially in Nairobi. What make Scopolamine effective in criminal activities are its effects of sleepiness, victim’s inability to effectively resist robbery and loss of memory of recent events before exposure. You practically do anything your attacker asks you to and afterwards you have no memory of the events. The commands can range from emptying your bank accounts to engaging in sexual acts.
Personally, I know of many instances it has been used to rob my friends. One of my colleague while enjoying outing at a night club, his drink was spiked and he slept like a person in stupor condition for 24 hours. Luckily for him his friends were there to protect him. A high school classmate died in hospital while on treatment after his drink was spiked what I would guess for both cases as Scopolamine overdose. Two of my friends were also drugged at a night club by a stranger lady and they were taken to their home thinking that it was their lucky day for a threesome. They lost cash and mobile phones, if not for the security guard at the gate, they could have lost their 43 inch flat screen Television. I have also heard of many instances that guys are drugged while in Public vehicles and they sleep for a long time only to wake up to the reality of losing their valuable belongings. Scopolamine makes you act around your attacker like it’s your friend, relative or someone you know making it what I would say as the most dangerous drug in history.
Scopolamine, colourless, odourless and tasteless is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods or beverages. It can also be blown onto your face hence its nickname ‘Devil’s Breath’ and this white powder turns a person into a ‘zombie’ and devoid of their own free will within minutes.
A travel advisory published by United States Department of state in 2012 stated: ‘Scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In large doses, it can cause respiratory failure and death. It is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods and beverages. The majority of these incidents occur in night clubs and bars, and usually men, perceived to be wealthy, are targeted by young, attractive women. To avoid becoming a victim of scopolamine, one should never accept food or beverages offered by strangers or new acquaintances or leave food or beverages unattended. Victims of scopolamine or other drugs should seek immediate medical attention.’
Physostigmine is used as the antidote to treat the effects of Scopolamine in depressing the Central Nervous System. Other treatments include Gastric Lavage and induced emesis among other supportive management.
Let us be careful out there in the clubs, public transport and anywhere where there are strangers and high prevalence of criminal incidents reported. As a general rule, never leave food or beverages unattended to, don’t accept food or beverages from strangers and seek medical assistance immediately if you believe you have been drugged.
Watch the video below on Scopolamine and crime and let us be vigilant.
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