Scopolamine: Dangers of the Devil’s Breath in Colombia


I’m regularly asked about potential scams that can affect tourists to Medellin and Colombia. I always respond the same, that common street crime (pickpockets, robberies) are the greatest threat to the average visitor.

But, there’s another more insidious danger called Scopolamine, known colloquially as the “Devil’s Breath.”

While Colombia’s unfortunate reputation is built on cocaine, by and large that’s a recreational drug. If you’re a tourist who doesn’t do it, then you needn’t worry about it getting into your system.

That’s not the case with scopolamine. This odorless, tasteless drug derived from an abundant plant is similar in some ways to Rohypnol, also know as “roofies” or the “date rape drug.”

Thieves and prostitutes in Colombia use it to drug their victims, most often for the purpose of robbery, but sexual assault is also a possibility.

Because the drug, when given at the proper dosage, allows the person to remain conscious and talking, it’s possible for the thieves to effectively kidnap the victim, and have him/her empty out their ATM accounts, and/or home of valuables.

The next day, the victim may not remember anything of the encounter, which means any official incident statistics are A LOT lower than actual cases.

A US Department of State report from March 4, 2011 states the following:

One common and particularly dangerous method that criminals use in order to rob a victim is through the use of a variety of drugs. The most common has been the drug Scopolamine.

Unofficial estimates indicate there are approximately 50,000 Scopolamine incidents in Colombia per year. Scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In large doses, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

It is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods and beverages, however, in powder form, it can also be blown into a target’s face. The majority of these incidents occur in night clubs and bars, and usually men, perceived to be wealthy, are targeted by young, attractive women.

To avoid becoming a victim of Scopolamine, one should never accept food or beverages offered by strangers or new acquaintances or leave food or beverages unattended. Victims of Scopolamine or other drugs should seek immediate medical attention.

The video above, released by Vice in 2008, brought the danger of scopolamine to light.

In Colombia, based on what I’ve read, its use is more common in Bogotá than Medellin or other parts of the country. People traveling or living in Bogotá need to exercise extra caution, but I suggest we all stay aware.

I personally know of one person who I believe was drugged with scopolamine in Medellin, and suspect another friend experienced the same in a different city.

Unfortunately, unless you go straight to the hospital, and get toxicology reports, I don’t know that there’s a definitive way to prove scopolamine was used, but the hallmark effects are the same.

Waking up the next day, unaware of what happened to you. You have probably been robbed of your valuables, either on your person, and/or at the place you’re staying. If not, you may have been lucky. The dose might not have been strong enough, or you potentially escaped your captors.

More recent coverage of scopolamine includes articles on the Huffington Post, Global Post, and Daily Mail.

Do you suspect you or someone you know has been affected by scopolamine?

If so, please share your story below. In this instance, it’s OK to use a fake name, or comment anonymously.

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  1. My wife is from Bogota. When she was a teenager in the 1990’s, a man and a woman blew a substance into her face. When she regained consciousness, she discovered that she had been sexually assaulted, confirmed by a doctor. Thank God she did not become pregnant and/or contract a disease.

  2. I had a bizarre incident occur at La Isla gentleman’s club in Medellin on a recent weekend night. As far as I recollect, I had a maximum of 3 drinks. I also offered a drink to one young lady. She pressed me for a sexual session upstairs but I had no interest in sex. I asked for my tab. I was presented with a piece of paper, which I foolishly signed. I was a bit tipsy and in a good mood. I then left the venue, got in a taxi, arrived at my hotel, and went to bed.

    I’m an accountant so I’m in the habit of checking my credit card charges. I was surprised to see two charges totaling $500. I called my bank who said I should try to resolve the issue with the merchant.

    This is where it all turned surreal. I show up to La IIsla and suggest I was incorrectly billed. And then it gets bizarre. I was told I signed for two ladies and had proceeded to take them upstairs for sex. The club manager presents me with video of me at the bar with the two women I paid for. I’m shown video climbing up the stairs with the women. I am shocked to see myself in the video. It is a bit dark and blurry but it appears to be me.

    I am presented with one of the two women I supposedly slept with. I have never seen her in my life. I’m also presented with s security guard who lights up laughing when he sees me. Apparently he remembers me from the night before. He tells me I had passed out upstairs and that Ineeded to be carried down the stairs at the end of the night. Again, I have no idea what he is talking about.

    I am then approached by the stripper I had spent les than an hour talking to. She confirms my version of the events, except that I had danced with her afterward. This also makes no sense because I rarely enjoy dancing.

    I am in utter disbelief at what has transpired. The only thing I can think of is that I was either drugged or the video had been altered. I’m still in shock. Suggestions and insights are welcome. I have shared my story in order to make others aware.

  3. Me and my Italian friend met some girls in Palmahia area, we had couple drinks in a bar there and then girls insisted to go to VIP club. After we had couple drinks in that place and obviously they drugged us and we both woke up in a dirty motel room. They stole our cellphones, money etc. Girls seemed pretty normal so you never know. I highly recommend only to hang out in Provenza area, if you meet some girls and they ask you to go somewhere else better say no… i have been to more than 50 countries. More than 30 times just colombia last 6 years and it happened only once but it could even cost our lives. It’s an amazing country but I highly recommend you to be very cautious…