Why Devil’s Breath Is Considered The ‘World’s Scariest Drug’, How It Works, And Why You Should Avoid It

Devil's Breath world's scariest drug

iStockphoto / ysuel

The only time I’ve ever heard about ‘Devil’s Breath’ was in some TV reenactment shows about a traveler who was drugged, robbed of all his money, and had his life destroyed. I watched that show probably a decade ago and remembered virtually nothing until I came across this clip on The Infographics Show YouTube channel explaining why Devil’s Breath, aka burandanga (similar to scopolamine) is considered to be the “world’s scariest drug.”

This YouTube clip does a pretty comprehensive job of explaining why this drug’s so terrifying, what the potential effects and side-effects are, and how you can avoid being targeted by would-be criminals looking to put it in your drink. Here’s the clip with lots of information below:

I guess the good news and silver lining here is that Devil’s Breath aka burandanga isn’t popular in the United States. Devil’s Breath is made by harvesting the flowers from the “borrachero” shrub which is prevalent in Colombia and found throughout much of South America. The largest region of concern for being drugged by Devil’s Breath is in Colombia. It’s actually been used for centuries and centuries in spiritual ceremonies but criminals have been using it with frequency over the past few decades. Here’s the plant it’s derived from:

According to Drugs.com, Devil’s Breath leads to “hallucinations, frightening images, and a lack of free will” and amnesia is possible. So any potential victim can be powerless to fight off the criminals and unable to remember anything. If you’ve ever heard of stories about criminals putting something in someone’s drink and that person then taking the criminal to the ATM and emptying out their bank accounts, this is the drug that leads to that. It’s generally found in a liquid or powder form that’s slipped into a drink.

If the name ‘scopolamine’ sounds familiar to you, it’s likely that you’ve suffered from seasickness in the past. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve never been stricken with sea sickness but when I go deep-sea fishing/offshore for full-day trips it seems like there’s always someone on the boat who gets one of the scopolamine patches to put behind their ears.

The drug’s actual effects of “hallucinations, frightening images, and a lack of free will” along with amnesia help paint a picture of why this is the world’s scariest drug. But the side effects listed on Drugs.com:

– Side effects like dry mouth, blurred vision, headache, urinary retention, and dizziness can occur even at the low dose used in the transdermal patch.

– Overdoses can lead to a dangerous fast heart rate, dilated pupils, toxic psychosis, confusion, vivid hallucinations, seizures or coma, among other events.

– Use with alcohol is warned against in the official package labeling. Combining it with alcohol, as in a spiked drink, or with other sedative drugs would certainly hasten central nervous system depression. Confusion, disorientation, excitability, and amnesia could ensue with oral consumption.

That’s a hard pass for me. I’m not looking to take this recreationally or get drugged by someone who wants to wipe out my bank accounts. I guess I’m fortunate that my banks have some pretty strict limits on what I can and can’t do when traveling internationally.

It does sound vaguely like that drug The Scarecrow created in Batman Begins (2005) that caused everyone in Gotham to lose their minds. You aren’t in control, you’re tripping balls, you’re agreeing to anything and everything, and you don’t remember anything. Also, overdoses are incredibly common.

Drugs.com has some common tips to avoid being targeted by Devil’s Breath which include (1) always making sure you watch your drink and never leave it unattended, (2) never accepting drinks from strangers, (3) traveling in groups, and (4) heeding travel warnings.

That’s advice we should all be following anytime where in unfamiliar regions. Don’t go accepting drinks from total strangers. It might seem like a nice gesture but it really can easily end in disaster.