As our civil liberties are eroded under the guise a war on terror and men without rights are kept in secret prisons and sent to foreign jails for abuse, I worry that truth serums will once again become a staple of law enforcement and intelligence. They do not allow interrogators to extract reliable information, but neither does torture — and yet the current administration is not opposed to those brutal methods.
I am not alone. Last year, The Washington Post published a fantastic article on this alarming topic. Even better, Alison Winter wrote a comprehensive history of truth serums that appeared in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine two years ago.
It began with the so-called “zombie drug” scopolamine. In the 1920s, Robert House, a doctor from Texas, branded the versatile alkaloid as a means to extract information. In the next decade, barbituates including sodium amytal and sodium pentothal were introduced.
It didn’t take long for reasonable people to realize that truth serum would produce inaccurate or inconsistent results during interrogations, and yet former CIA officials and Indian judicial officials take them seriously. Perhaps they read too many Dick Tracy comics as kids.
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