When VICE initially asked me to go down to Colombia to dig into this scopolamine story, I was pretty excited. I had only a vague understanding of the drug, but the idea of a substance that renders a person incapable of exercising free will seemed liked a recipe for hilarity and the YouTube hall of fame. I even spent a little time brainstorming the various ways I could transport some of it back to the states and had a pretty good list going of different ways to utilize it on my buddies. The original plan was for me to sample the drug myself to really get an idea of the effect it had on folks. The producer and camera man had flown down to Bogota ahead of me to confirm some meetings and start laying down the groundwork. By the time I arrived a few days later, things had changed dramatically. Their first few days in the country had apparently been such a harrowing montage of freaked-out dealers and unimaginable horror stories about scopolamine that we decided I was absolutely not going to be doing the drug. All elements of humor and novelty were rapidly stripped away during my first few days in town. After meeting only a couple people with firsthand experience, the story took a far darker turn than we ever could have imagined, and the scopolamine pranks I had originally imagined pulling on my friends seemed beyond naive and absurd. By the time we were wrapping things up and preparing to leave the country, I couldn’t wait to get as far away from Colombia and that drug as possible. Apologies for a fleeting moment of sincerity, but looking back, I’m pretty proud of the work we did down there. This story, and the people who tell it, truly deserve to be heard.
—VICE Correspondent Ryan Duffy