When I was writing Unchained Hearts, I had more than a few ideas in my head. I wanted it to be this twisty-turny drama and what better way to do that than to introduce the use of some drug I was sure not many knew about.
Yep, that was the ticket.
To do that, I remembered a drug I had heard about years ago and had seen in one of my favorite shows at the time Rizzoli & Isles
The first time I had heard about was in a story about Colombia, of all places. It was this drug that was used to zombify people, they said
My first thought was, this is scary cool, I must learn more.
Scopolamine, also known as “Devil’s Breath” is a narcotic that is derived from a plant called the Borrachero (Spanish for ‘drunkard’) tree, Brugmansia aurea. It’s used as a hallucinogen that’s considered one of the world’s scariest drugs.
The plant is common to countries like Ecuador and Colombia and is considered vulnerable, as in a step from extinction. Now, I had heard stories of how people had willingly given their money to robbers. I even recall seeing an episode of Law & Order where a woman, I think she was played by actress Kelly Hu, was a victim of that drug. Of course, the victims denied it because that makes no sense.
Why would you be a willing participant in your own burgling?
And that’s the rub. This drug, which can be administered by blowing fine dust in someone’s face, basically strips the victim of their free will. They become highly suggestible to doing anything to themselves and other people. Essentially, not only is their free will gone but so is their defense.
Having that kind of an imagination, the very idea of that kind of helplessness gave me chills. Potentially, and probably actually, you can have someone be extremely susceptible to rape or murder and that’s a terrifying prospect that makes you wonder why the hell this plant even exists? Funny enough, it’s been used by South American shamans in rituals of fortune telling, for example as well as for rheumatic ailments.
Going back to that Season 4 episode of Rizzoli & Isles, I saw scopolamine come up again so I was able to do a bit of additional research for UH with that episode. My take on the drug is different than in the articles I’d read about the drug and the TV show episodes but it was no less terrifying I think because…well, I don’t want to give that away so I’ll just say it’s about how it was used and by whom.
To be fair, scopolamine is used medicinally to treat ailments like motion sickness. It’s also thought to be a good truth serum, as I found out later, so it’s not all about doing evil. then again, it’s like many things, isn’t it?
The nature of it is in the intent.
House, R. (1931). The Use of Scopolamine in Criminology. The American Journal of Police Science, 2(4), 328-336. doi:10.2307/1147361