Burundanga: The Drug Against Free Will

BurandangaIt turns out that ‘free will’ is a brain process that can be shut off. Wired UK explores the plant-derived drug — currently all the rage in the South American criminal underworld — that does this:

Burundanga is a scary drug. According to news reports from Ecuador, the last thing a motorist could recall, after waking up minus his car and possessions, was being approached by two women; in Venezuela, a girl came round in hospital to find she had been abducted and sexually assaulted. Each had been doped with burundanga, an extract of the brugmansia plant containing high levels of the psychoactive chemical scopolamine.

News reports allude to a sinister effect: that the drug removes free will, effectively turning victims into suggestible human puppets. Although not fully understood by neuroscience, free will is seen as a highly complex neurological ability and one of the most cherished of human characteristics. Clearly, if a drug can eliminate this, it highlights a stark vulnerability at the core of our species.

It is known that scopolamine affects memory and makes people more passive. Neuroscientist Renate Thienel notes that “scopolamine has a selective effect on memory, although other mental functions, such as planning and information manipulation, are unaffected.” This suggests victims remain cognitively nimble but unable to retain information.

The key seems to be that scopolamine blocks acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential to memory. Scans also reveal the drug affects the amygdala, a brain area controlling aggression and anxiety. Evidence suggests victims tend to be confused and passive rather than unable to resist commands. Yet, until scopolamine’s role in the chemistry of free will is fully explored, we can only speculate that the criminal underworld has unwittingly stumbled upon one of the greatest discoveries of 21st-century neuroscience.

28 Comments on "Burundanga: The Drug Against Free Will"

  1. Hune Ceaulage | Jun 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    WHOO20!

  2. Hune Ceaulage | Jun 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    WHOO20!

  3. This is an asshole non-story. Scopolamine has been used as the so-called “truth serum” since at least the ’40’s. The CIA abandoned it because it turns the person into a zombie who doesn’t care about the truth one way or another. Scopolamine is the active ingredient in all the deliriant plants such as belladona and henbane and jimson weed. It can really fuck you up. But it’s not new at all. Neither is drugging people into a stupor. 

  4. This is an asshole non-story. Scopolamine has been used as the so-called “truth serum” since at least the ’40’s. The CIA abandoned it because it turns the person into a zombie who doesn’t care about the truth one way or another. Scopolamine is the active ingredient in all the deliriant plants such as belladona and henbane and jimson weed. It can really fuck you up. But it’s not new at all. Neither is drugging people into a stupor. 

  5. This is an asshole non-story. Scopolamine has been used as the so-called “truth serum” since at least the ’40’s. The CIA abandoned it because it turns the person into a zombie who doesn’t care about the truth one way or another. Scopolamine is the active ingredient in all the deliriant plants such as belladona and henbane and jimson weed. It can really fuck you up. But it’s not new at all. Neither is drugging people into a stupor. 

    • Omshanthi_paul | Jun 16, 2011 at 1:52 am |

      agree it’s a useless story, and the only amnesia medical uses is birth delivery when mixed with analgesics, otherwise this anti-motion-sickness, plant-derived med is far from a 21st century wonder. That last line is embarrassing, DisInfo!

    • Very well stated. Don’t believe? Read Raymound Chandler. 

    • Grooveboss | Jun 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

      soon to be given at work places all over america. Bella donna was also use to make pupils dilate in victorian era to make eyes look cuter 

  6. Anonymous | Jun 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm |

    Sounds like any strong psychedelic I’ve heard of

  7. Anonymous | Jun 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm |

    Sounds like any strong psychedelic I’ve heard of

  8. cosmicserpent | Jun 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    Sounds like any strong psychedelic I’ve heard of

    • heard of?  if you had any experience with psychedelics, none of them do anything resembling ‘burundanga’.  the only similarity might be taking so much of either that you pass out.

  9. …agree with y’all…but you know the ol’ hack’s expression, “a day without a scary drug story is a day without hysteria” and thus the media machine grinds on.

  10. …agree with y’all…but you know the ol’ hack’s expression, “a day without a scary drug story is a day without hysteria” and thus the media machine grinds on.

  11. Bababoey

  12. Omshanthi_paul | Jun 16, 2011 at 5:52 am |

    agree it’s a useless story, and the only amnesia medical uses is birth delivery when mixed with analgesics, otherwise this anti-motion-sickness, plant-derived med is far from a 21st century wonder. That last line is embarrassing, DisInfo!

  13. Omshanthi_paul | Jun 16, 2011 at 5:52 am |

    agree it’s a useless story, and the only amnesia medical uses is birth delivery when mixed with analgesics, otherwise this anti-motion-sickness, plant-derived med is far from a 21st century wonder. That last line is embarrassing, DisInfo!

  14. heard of?  if you had any experience with psychedelics, none of them do anything resembling ‘burundanga’.  the only similarity might be taking so much of either that you pass out.

  15. Very well stated. Don’t believe? Read Raymound Chandler. 

  16. Anonymous | Jun 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm |

    Zags is completely right. This has been used in South America for centuries to turn people into real life zombies (including burying them alive and convincing them and their families that they’re dead). I’ve never really heard about the effects wearing off though: they must have had a small dose compared to what is usually given the victim. As I understood it, once they went through the drugging complete with ritual the ‘zombified’ person never recovered their previous mental capacity. Then again, people used as toys and slaves for others never tend to have a particularly long lifespan. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this article is pointless (especially since this stuff actually exists and is used on people), but it is definitely leaning toward the tasteless glorification of fear and power.

  17. Zags is completely right: This has been used in South America for centuries to turn people into real life zombies (including burying them alive and convincing them and their families that they’re dead). I’ve never really heard about the effects wearing off, though–they must have had a small dose compared to what is usually given the victim. As I understood it, once they went through the drugging–complete with ritual–the ‘zombified’ person never recovered their previous mental capacity. Then again, people used as toys and slaves for others hardly ever tend to have a particularly long lifespan.
    I wouldn’t go as far as to say this article is pointless (especially since this stuff actually exists and is used on people), but it is definitely leaning toward the tasteless glorification of fear and power.

  18. Ryan Lee Mckenna | Jun 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    Come on, free will is an illusion. We’re all controlled by our environment, internal and external.

  19. Ryan Lee Mckenna | Jun 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm |

    Come on, free will is an illusion. We’re all controlled by our environment, internal and external.

    • Alright. But probability is not an illusion, and given that there is a vast array of probabilities and possibilities for any person at any given moment (especially concerning moments of choice), I would say free will is most definitely real, though it is forced to operate under the parameters of physical and chemical laws. 

  20. Grooveboss | Jun 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    soon to be given at work places all over america. Bella donna was also use to make pupils dilate in victorian era to make eyes look cuter 

  21. justagirl | Jun 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    burunda-crunch cereal.  cuz bitches be having ideas.

  22. justagirl | Jun 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    burunda-crunch cereal.  cuz bitches be having ideas.

  23. Anonymous | Jul 30, 2011 at 4:01 am |

    Alright. But probability is not an illusion, and given that there is a vast array of probabilities and possibilities for any person at any given moment (especially concerning moments of choice), I would say free will is most definitely real, though it is forced to operate under the parameters of physical and chemical laws. 

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