Another lethal drug that is being used recreationally and in connection with the commission of certain crimes is a substance called scopolamine. While it is an approved prescriptive medication, it is now being used as a party and date-rape drug.
Scopolamine has been found to produce side effects that are potentially dangerous, and its properties have been found to have the potential for abuse.
What is Scopolamine?
Hyoscine hydrobromide, also known as scopolamine hydrobromide, is a prescription medication used in the treatment of conditions including motion sickness, postoperative nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal spasms, renal spasms, Parkinson’s disease, muscle spasms, involuntary movement in the lungs or urinary tract, bowel cholic, irritable bowel syndrome, hypersalivation, and eye inflammation. It has also been used to treat asthma, depression, and chemotherapy-associated nausea.
Scopolamine belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which act to block the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that triggers nausea and vomiting.
The medication may be administered orally, subcutaneously, ophthalmically, intravenously, and via transdermal patch (e.g. Transderm-Scop, Transderm-V).
The main ingredient of scopolamine is burundanga, which is derived from comes from a datura plant called “Borrachero tree.” The drug is also known as “devil’s breath” and has been used as a mind control agent.
The practice of using scopolamine to reduce a person’s free will and force him into submission is common in Columbia, where the tree naturally flourishes. It is associated with crimes such as rape, abduction, theft, and robbery. It is estimated that the number of annual scopolamine incidents in the country amounts to about 50,000.
These occurrences are common in night clubs and bars which are frequented by male predators who target attractive and unsuspecting women. The tablets are usually crushed and slipped into drinks or food. The effects produced are similar to the date-rape drug Rohypnol and has been reported to render the victim unconscious for more than 24 hours. The victim may not remember the incident the following day.
Other than being used illicitly by criminals to render their victims helpless and submissive, it is also used recreationally by abusers who seek the feelings of euphoria that the drug elicits. It is commonly abused as a party drug by users who prefer it for its hallucinogenic properties.
Signs and Symptoms
Abuse of scopolamine causes a person to appear extremely “relaxed.” Users have the tendency to be more truthful and submissive. They are unable to resist following suggestions and may be coerced to do some against that are normally against their will.
The high produced by the drug can be addicting. Heavy or frequent users are likely to encounter several health effects as well as troubles with work, school, or finances.
Dangers of Scopolamine Abuse
Even when taken at regular doses, Scopolamine can cause confusion, agitation, rambling speech, hallucinations, and paranoia. It can trigger allergic reactions that are manifested by difficulty of breathing, constriction of the throat, and swelling of the lips and tongue.
Other side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, blurred vision, dilated pupils, dry or itchy eyes, flushing, rashes, seizures, constipation, decreased sweating, restlessness, agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and poor coordination.
Children and elderly are more susceptible to these side effects compared to other patients.
Those who are diagnosed of conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, coronary artery disease, tachyarrhythmia, cardiac conduction disorder, brain damage, enlarged prostate, stomach obstruction, bladder problems, ulcerative colitis, open-angle glaucoma, psychosis, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, and toxin-medicated diarrhea should discuss these health concerns with their doctor before taking scopolamine. It is usually not recommended that people with these conditions be prescribed scopolamine. However, when the medication becomes necessary, its administration and dosage should be closely monitored by a medical professional.
In patients with Parkinson’s disease, abrupt discontinuation of the use of transdermal patch may result in adverse effects such as headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. These withdrawal effects may appear more than 24 hours from the removal of the patch.
Pregnant women should likewise consult their physicians before taking the drug as it is not yet known whether scopolamine may be harmful to the fetus.
Scopolamine interacts with the metabolism of other drugs such as other anticholinergics, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, analgesics, diuretics, and muscle relaxants. The drug is known to intensify the effects of such medications.
Since the side effects of Scopolamine include drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision, driving and operating machinery while under the influence of the drug can be potentially hazardous. As much as possible, performing these activities should be avoided by those who are taking the medication. Excessive exercise and underwater activities should likewise be avoided.
Treatment for Scopolamine Abuse
The psychoactive properties of the drug can get people addicted. Some users have reported developing withdrawal symptoms after the cessation of drug use. These include feelings of depression, confusion, and psychotic episodes.
The treatment of scopolamine addiction often involves individualized treatment and regular therapy sessions. Various counseling approaches may be utilized to help the patient recover from the addiction.
Scopolamine tablets usually come in 0.4 milligrams and should be taken every 8 hours or as directed by the doctor.
The transdermal patch is for external use only and is applied behind the ear. It delivers 1 mg of scopolamine which is enough to last for 3 days. It should be applied 4 hours ahead of time to prevent motion sickness. Only one patch should be worn at a time.
Scopolamine overdose is dangerous, and medical attention should be sought immediately. Some of the overdose symptoms are tachycardia, arrhythmia, hyperventilation, blurred vision, double vision, night blindness, disturbed color perception, pounding in the ears, dry mouth, skin flushing, gastrointestinal motility, decreased urination, painful urination, painful urination, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, seizures, irritability agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, fatigue, sluggishness, and loss of consciousness.
Drug overdose is usually treated with medications such as physostigmine and supportive therapy.
Scopolamine is intended to be used for medical purposes only and should be used according to the instructions of a physician. It is not safe to be taken as a recreational drug. Those who know do so may develop a physical and psychological dependence on the substance which is dangerous in the long run. If so, treatment centers should be contacted as soon as possible for the appropriate intervention and therapy.
[Burundanga image by Jorge Lascar via Flickr Creative Commons]