Tourists visiting Tenerife have been about warned about the use of a little-known drug to make victims compliant enough to follow their attacker’s instructions. The advice comes after a 27-year-old Irish national was robbed of cash and belongings after being sprayed with it.
The substance is scopolamine, a medication used to treat motion sickness as well as nausea and vomiting following an xoperation. Also known as hyoscine, the odourless powder is made from a particular species of deadly nightshade. Its effects are felt within 20 minutes and can last for up to eight hours, but it disappears from the bloodstream in a maximum of six hours, and can only be detected in urine within 12 hours. In large doses, it can be lethal.
David Nelson from County Wicklow said he was conned by a woman in a nightclub, after apparently inhaling the drug, known colloquially as Devil’s Breath, when on holiday on Tenerife during March. When it took effect, she took his phone, gold watch and bracelet, removed €600 from his wallet and took him to an cash-point where she took as much money from his accounts as she could before his cards were declined. He said he remembered very little of what happened after being sprayed, and felt like he had been turned “into a zombie.”
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office already warns UK tourists about scopolamine in Colombia and Ecuador where the drug is known as burundanga and where it is believed to have been blame for “thousands of crimes.” There is presently no such warning for visitors to Tenerife, although the Department of Foreign Affairs in London has acknowledged that Spanish authorities have warned of date-rape drugs being used.