Truth Serum: Does This Drug Really Work?

The idea of ​​gaining control not only over people but also over information that might be hidden is so appealing that the concept of “truth serum” has become something very popular and well known.

It has been touted as a liquid whose potential to achieve bad ends is hard to imagine at all, and with effects as simple as the method of use: you make someone drink and soon after they get it. begin. An interrogation in which what we are about to hear will be totally what the respondent believes he or she reliably knows. The option to lie will disappear.

Serum representations of truth seem idealized in works of fiction like Harry Potter (bass in the name of Veritaserum), but in real life it has also been a substance used, especially by intelligence services, in the pentotal sodium variant. Now, do these types of substances really work?

The story of the truth serum

At the start of the 20th century, word spread that scopolamine, also known as burundanga, a substance given to women to better resist the ailments of childbirth, made them much more uninhibited and started talking. intimate details of their life with people they didn’t know.

In the absence of a cognitivist psychology and a scientific perspective based on neurosciences, it is psychoanalysis, the dominant paradigm at the time when we speak of mental processes, responsible for offering an explanation of its functioning, this truth serum.

Using the self-structures of the psyche, it has been proposed that certain substances, entering the body, cause the neutralization of the self and therefore he couldn’t suppress the forces coming from thisSo neither the morale nor the expectations of not “getting in trouble” prevented many of the person’s innermost thoughts from emerging to the surface.

It was later, when we got to know how mind-altering drugs work, that we started to understand how truth sera work … and why they are ineffective.

Getting into the nervous system

Basically, truth sera like sodium pentothal are central nervous system depressants. This means that, due to their chemical makeup, they make various parts of the brain less activated and hence the executive processes related to how we control where our focus goes and what kinds of actions we should avoid being. relaxed, as if letting their guard down.

This means that there are hardly any significant differences between, for example, sodium pentothal and any other hypnotic drug, in that its characteristic effect is drowsiness, sedation and altered states of consciousness.

Seen this way, it makes sense that it produces disinhibition in the content of what is being said, because with this substance circulating in the brain, it is virtually impossible to accommodate the kinds of things that are not appropriate in. a given context, neural networks. working together to create our thoughts are so dormant that they cannot perform several complex actions at once, such as bringing up an idea and at the same time needing not to say it.

Sodium pentothal and true faiths

But what theoretically characterizes the truth serum is not simply the disinhibition, but the truth of the content of what is said. In this sense, sodium pentothal and other similar barbiturates are failing miserably.

Because? Among other things because a truth serum is still a mind-altering drug, And since it is not an intelligent entity; it simply circulates in our body coupling where its chemical characteristics allow and passing (or transforming into other components) in other cases.

This means that it has no way of detecting neurochemical processes specifically related to the truth, it simply “fits” into certain niches, for better or for worse. This is also why sodium pentothal, like any drug, not only produces the expected effect that the doctor or the military person who supplies it tries to obtain, but also generates several more or less intense side effects.

In the case of pentothal, this substance is coupled to several receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA, which is a depressant of brain activity, and works by mimicking it, which means that it enhances the effects of a substance. that it is already present in our body. The consequence is that you enter a state of drowsiness in which “everything is the same” and in which factors such as social norms and concern for the given image lose much of their importance.

The most absurd questions

In conclusion, the use of the truth serum, in addition to being unethical as such, can at most serve to cause the respondent to start speaking inconsistently, regardless of whether what he says is true or not.

Maybe let go of the defenses that separate your thoughts and what you sayBut it will also be true that the quality of your thoughts, compared to the reality of them, will have dropped.

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