10 Facts And Rumors About Drugs Used As Torture Devices

While the idea of drugging civilians or using chemicals to torture prisoners sounds like something out of a movie, leaks and declassified reports from the US government suggest that the concept is not so far-fetched. While some items on this list were born out of conspiracy theories, others were the result of research carried out by the CIA and the Department of Defense.

From giving LSD to unsuspecting citizens to an herbicide that proved more deadly than anyone imagined, this list explores some of the ways drugs and chemicals have been used to control, torture, and destroy.

Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • The CIA Dosed Civilians With LSD As Part Of Project MKULTRA

    From 1953 to 1964, for a secret government project known as MKULTRA, the CIA dosed US citizens with LSD in public places, then followed the individuals to see how they reacted to the drug. Apparently, the CIA was attempting to test certain "brainwashing" methods they believed had already been used successfully in North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union.

    Some reports indicate the CIA even dosed their own employees. Dr. Frank Olson, a biological weapons researcher for the US Army, was dosed one night while attending a scientific conference in rural Maryland. According to witnesses, Olson began showing symptoms typically related to paranoia and schizophrenia. He later fell from the 10th story of the New York hotel where he was staying and died.

  • According To Rumors, The Government Has Used The 'Twilight Zone' Technique To Interrogate Prisoners

    Though it hasn't been proven, conspiracy theorists have long reported on the CIA using barbiturates to interrogate suspects.

    Supposedly known within inner circles as "the Twilight Zone technique," the combination of thiopental (a barbiturate) and amphetamine is said to "send one's psyche into a brain-breaking circle of waking dreams” from which (due to the insomniac properties of the amphetamine) it's impossible to wake, unless interrogators get the desired information they're seeking.

  • The US Has Allegedly Injected Prisoners With Antipsychotics

    Haloperidol, or Haldol, is an antipsychotic drug commonly used to treat schizophrenia; however, the US government has also reportedly used it on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

    According to a declassified report from the Pentagon’s inspector general, prisoners were interrogated while under the influence of psychoactive medications, including Haldol. Using the drug in this way can potentially cause severe neurological disorders and persistent movement disorders.

    The drug also makes the recipient sleepy, which, coupled with sleep deprivation and intense questioning, could cause a prisoner to confess or divulge secret information.

  • A Physician Called The US Government's Use Of A Malaria Drug 'Pharmacologic Waterboarding'

    In the 2010s, reports began leaking that the US Department of Defense was administering the anti-malaria drug Mefloquine to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

    Although the drug is effective in treating malaria, it can be dangerous if taken by an uninfected person. In fact, Army physician Major Remington L. Nevin referred to the use of the drug on uninfected prisoners as “pharmacologic waterboarding.” Even so, the US maintained an official policy of administering it to all detainees at Guantanamo Bay, regardless of their malaria status.

    According to Nevin, exposure to the drug can cause “high risks of potentially severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including seizures... hallucinations, paranoid delusions, panic... and thoughts of suicide.”

  • Conspiracy Theorists Believe A Common Anesthetic Is Used To Torture Prisoners

    According to a long-standing conspiracy theory, the CIA and the supposed “Illuminati” have used the anesthetic Anectine on prisoners. Misuse of this drug is said to create suffocation or drowning sensations in its recipients, sometimes causing the victim to believe they're dying.

    Some theorists have also claimed that “the drugs are at times used with elaborate light, sound and motion shows that produce whatever effect the programmer wants to produce.”

  • The 'Zombie Cucumber' Is A Conspiracy Theory Involving The Jimson Weed

    Another conspiracy theory involving the CIA and the alleged Illuminati is the use of Datura stramonium, more commonly known as Jimson weed. This substance is allegedly used in drug cocktails known as “zombie cucumbers” that leave victims capable of physical function while removing their free will.

    The effects of the zombie cucumbers are said to produce "amnesia and a pseudo-death of the victim," or a sensation through which “the brain doesn’t die, but the mind is shut off.”