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Colombian drug strips users' free will

By Ryan Duffy, VBS correspondent
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Drug's power strikes fear in Colombians
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Journalist heads to Colombia to learn about drug, originally intending to try it
  • Tone of story quickly changes upon hearing "unimaginable horror stories"
  • Mere mention of the drug strikes "startling," "palpable" fear in locals
RELATED TOPICS
  • Colombia
  • Illegal Drugs

Editor's Note: The staff at CNN.com has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is the broadband television network of VICE. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our CNN.com readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- We had heard about a drug in Colombia that essentially eliminates free-will in humans. It is called scopolamine and it seemed to us to be so completely out there--like a plot device in an awful Jack Black movie. In fact, it sounded so horrible and strange that we wanted to go down and try it out. So the producers and I compiled a laundry list of embarrassing chores for me to complete while under the influence and, chuckling hysterically to ourselves, got on a plane and headed for Bogota, Colombia.

Once we landed in the Colombian capital, it took all of about 60 minutes to realize there wasn't going to be any more laughing. The fear that the mere mention of scopolamine struck in the locals was palpable and startling. As we dug deeper into this drug's story, following the evolution of the plant and its uses, we began to appreciate the gravity of ingesting it. And we became fearful.

We heard harrowing tales from victims and perpetrators alike, sat with prostitutes who calmly explained administering the drug to unsuspecting johns, and visited the home of a man who confessed in chilling detail to murdering someone who had dosed him with the drug. It was difficult to believe at times, but we spoke to countless law enforcement officials and medical professionals who verified all that we'd heard, and who also expressed their frustration and fear with what they saw as a growing problem.

See the rest of Colombian devil's breath at VBS.TV

After a week of chasing this story across the city, we were rattled. By the time we met up with our local contact, a dealer named Demencia, I had little to no interest in going through with the plan as conceived. Still, he bought a gram of the drug, and when he returned to the car and began to open it, all the horror stories of the week came rushing at me. It occurred to me we were sitting in a car full of expensive video equipment on the outskirts of Bogota with a known drug dealer we had just met, and in his possession was arguably the most dangerous drug in the world.

Fortunately for us, Demencia turned out to be a rather trustworthy drug dealer, and we made it out of Bogota unscathed, our mental faculties intact, the scopolamine dispatched safely into a nearby toilet. We have not, however, been able to shake the stories we heard.

 
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