In films about secret agents, we are often shown how, during interrogation, a “truth serum” is injected into a person’s body so that he stops lying and tells all his secrets. Some people think that such a substance does not exist and that this is a fiction of the writers. However, such a substance exists and has been used many times in the first half of the 20th century and even at the present time. Moreover, science knows several chemical compounds at once that can be used to obtain human secrets. Some of them are used in medicine today, and there are some that are deadly. In the framework of this article, we propose to understand what a “truth serum” is from a scientific point of view, what it can consist of and how it works.
What is “truth serum”
The phrase “truth serum” began to be actively used in the 1920s. From a scientific point of view, this can be called any psychoactive substance that can suppress a person’s ability to lie to others. It is important to note that these substances can in no way take control of the human mind – such a chemical compound does not currently exist. Most “truth serums” just slow down the transfer of information to the brain so much that a person simply cannot come up with a lie, and it is easier for him to tell the truth.
At the moment, scientists know at least four substances that can suppress a person’s ability to tell lies. They were actively used in the first half of the 20th century by police officers and CIA agents, and today they are components of some medicines. There is also “truth serum”, which in large doses is a lethal injection.
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Substances that can be considered “truth serum”
Here are four substances that have been used as “truth serum” in the past.
The very first “truth serum” known to science can be considered scopolamine, a substance found in some plants. As a substance that makes people tell the truth, it was proposed to be used by Professor Robert House. In the 1920s and 1930s, some police departments actually used this substance to extract evidence from suspects. In some cases, the judges considered the testimony taken in this way to be correct.
This substance acts in such a way that the transmission of information to the brain slows down in a person. Unfortunately, sometimes scopolamine fell into the hands of criminals – there is a case when women from Colombia smeared this substance on their bodies, lured men, and took advantage of their relaxed state to steal money from them.
Scientifically, sodium thiopental is a barbiturate, a drug that depresses the central nervous system. Colloquially, these kinds of substances are also called depressants, which are known for their ability to slow down the process of transmitting information to the brain. They can be used as medicines to relieve pain, relax muscles, and lower blood pressure and are available strictly by prescription.
Until 2011, sodium thiopental was used in medicine as an anesthetic, because when exposed to it, patients lose consciousness 30-45 seconds after ingestion. It was discontinued after the company that made the drug stopped making it because of concerns that it would be used as a “truth serum.”
Indeed, this substance was previously used to get people to tell the truth. At the disposal of the police, sodium thiopental helped solve horrific crimes – for example, in 2007, Indian businessman Moninder Singh Pander admitted to committing many murders with his servant Surender Kohli. But the “truth serum” could also fall into the hands of criminals, which is why its production was stopped.
Sodium amytal also belongs to barbiturates and depressants that depress the central nervous system. During the Second World War, it was actively used as a sedative for shell-shocked soldiers. However, after side effects were found in him, such as impaired coordination of movements and thinking, they stopped using him. In addition to these side effects, sodium amytal is highly addictive. An overdose of a substance can even cause death – the maximum dose for an adult is 1 gram.
For some time, they tried to use sodium amytal as a “truth serum”, but then they quickly abandoned it. And all because some people under its influence have false memories.
According to Science Alert, alcohol can also be considered “truth serum.” Ethyl alcohol contained in any alcoholic drink is also a depressant, which slows down the transmission of information to the brain. You may well have noticed that a drunk person becomes more open and easier to share his secrets.
Is it possible to create a real “truth serum”
As can be understood from everything written above, the mysterious “truth serum” is just one of the substances that greatly depresses the central nervous system. In 2006, Washington Post reporter David Brown concluded that there was no substance that could force a person to tell the truth. With due diligence, some people can keep control of their minds and make up lies to hide the truth.
However, according to bioweapons expert Mark Willis, the absence of a true “truth serum” does not mean that one cannot be invented in the future.
There are a large number of neural circuits that we can learn to control in the future. I would be completely amazed if in the future we did not create a number of drugs that would be very useful to investigators, he shared.
At the moment, oxytocin is considered a promising component for creating a “truth serum”. In 2005, researchers conducted an experiment with 128 students, half of whom were given oxytocin and the other half were given a placebo. After that, they were offered to play a game in which they had to trust a stranger to return part of their winnings to them. It turned out that oxytocin greatly increases people’s trust in strangers. And if a person trusts another, with a high degree of probability he will tell him all his secrets.
If a fully working “truth serum” is created, we will definitely tell about it. In order not to miss this event, subscribe to our Zen channel!