Angel's Trumpet
The drug scopolamine comes from a seed in the angel's trumpet flower of the Brugmansia tree.

A male resident from Queens, New York, is pushing for a hair follicle test to prove he was victimised by a gang that gives its targets scopolamine, after he had hundreds of dollars unknowingly withdrawn from his account at an ATM while under the influence of the drug. Scopolamine is sourced from the seed of a plant grown in the Andes and is known to put its victims in a hypnotic state.

Requesting anonymity, the man told International Business Times Australia that he had gone to a gay bar in Jackson Heights popular among Latinos on Aug 28, and at one point, left his drink and went to the toilet. He claimed that the only thing he could remember was sipping the drink and waking up 10 hours later in his bed on Aug 29. On the way to work that morning, while aboard a taxi, he checked his bank account and was surprised to see hundreds of dollars had been withdrawn.

The man explained that he reported the incident and went for a toxicology test, but the results came up negative for cocaine, cannabinoids and methadone. He had been forewarned by hospital staff that most roofie drugs leave the body after the first urination and are hard to detect because of their evolution on the street market.

As a result, rather than declare him a victim of scopolamine, he said the NYPD police report identified the crime as grand larceny. He is now placing his hope on a hair follicle test after learning that a scopolamine victim in Paris was reportedly tested positive for the drug one month after his attack, amid skepticism from the detective assigned to his case that he could just be drunk when the incident happened.

“I’ve played the events over and over in my head the night of the 28th and I cannot for the life of me come to any other conclusion other than scopolamine,” he told IBTimes AU in an email.

The man, who said he had woken up with vomit on his body and bedsheets - which he did not wash, believing it could possibly be used as evidence - said he does not discount the possibility that the suspects also raped him. He noted of plans to seek help from a rape victim support group, and said that he also started taking Post Exposure Prophylactics treatment 105 hours after the incident as a safety measure. The treatment involves taking HIV drugs Truvada and Isentress for 30 days, 72 hours after sexual contact.

Lamenting about the lack of available information about scopolamine, which has a history of being used by criminals, he said his hair follicle tests are now being sent to the University of Chicago for analysis.

Devil's breath

Also known as Devil's Breath, scopolamine was allegedly used by the Soviets and the CIA during the Cold War as a truth serum. Besides its use in interrogations, the drug’s chemical composition induces powerful hallucinations. According to The Guardian, the US Overseas Security Advisory Council says an unofficial estimate of 50,000 scopalamine incidents happen every year in Quito, although it doesn’t specifiy where this figure is from.

Earlier this month, Parisian police arrested two Chinese women and a man suspected to be part of an international criminal syndicate that uses the drug on their victims. According to media reports, the two women, aged 59 and 42, targeted elderly people, isolating them before asking them to breathe in the drug which they say is made from a herbal mixture with curing properties. The victims then fall into some kind of hypnotic state which the women take advantage of by accompanying them into their homes and looting them of their money and jewellery. One victim, a Paris resident, lost 100,000 euros in cash and valuables to the gang.

While some experts have been quick to question if scopolamine really does 'zombify' victims, Professor of pharmacology at UCL’s Clinical Pharmacology Unit Val Curran said high doses of the drug could be "completely incapcitating".

"When I used to give it to people [in experiments], they hated it – it makes your mouth really dry, it makes your pupils constrict," he told The Guardian. "It would completely zonk you out, but I don’t know about removing free will. It incapacitates you because you’d feel so drowsy, you wouldn’t remember what was going on. But you would do after huge doses of alcohol, or lots of other drugs like Valium or other benzodiazepine drugs."

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