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Is there such a thing as truth serum?

Does truth serum really exist? What is it?

5154 day(s) ago

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While there is no such thing as an actual truth serum, several drugs throughout history have been used to try and get people to tell the truth. These drugs all work the same way. They lower a person’s inhibitions so their automatic blocking mechanisms aren’t working as well as when sober. Sober is an appropriate term to use because the first truth serum was alcohol. Pliny the Elder, a 1st century Roman scholar and philosopher first coined the term “in vino veritas,” which, when translated from Latin, means, “in wine, truth.”

The first drug-induced confession of the 20th century involved a police officer who, under the influence of ether fumes, admitted that he faked being insane after he murdered his wife. In the 1920s it became common to give women in labor a combination of the depressant scopolamine and morphine to ease the pain. To gauge the effects, doctors asked the women questions until they couldn’t remember the answers. One doctor, Robert House, discovered that women under the influence of this combination of drugs seemed to always answer truthfully. He brought the technique to the Dallas jail where it was used to ascertain the innocence of two prisoners.

Later, scientists discovered that other drugs worked better, namely sodium amytal and sodium thiopental. When we talk about truth serum today, it is usually sodium thiopental, brand name Pentathol, we are talking about.

After some years of use in various jurisdictions, by military intelligence, and by the CIA, it was discovered that these drugs were faulty. Much of what is confessed under their influence is not true at all, but just fantasy. There’s no accurate way of separating out the truthful statements from the fantasy. Today, it is illegal in the U.S. to use confessions obtained under the influence of any drug.

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