Thanks for stopping by.
I've got another one for you.
I'd like to talk a bit about how to avoid getting Scopolamined (or, drugged in general) in South America.
Anyone who's travelled down here knows that folks will try to take advantage of you. And, when it comes to scopolamine, women are the main culprits.
So, we'll focus mostly on women today (what's new, eh?).
Here are some measures you can take to avoid becoming a victim of "Devil's Breath."
Let's get it going.
How Not To Get Scopolamined in South America
(Yeah, I turned that shit into a verb).
Well, it's a sedative, derived from a plant native to Colombia. It has legitimate medical purposes - for instance, it's used in small doses for motion sickness (my Mom used to take it!).
But, in highly concentrated-doses, it makes an individual delirious and highly open to suggestion. Ingest enough of it, and this effect can last for hours before you eventually fall into a coma.
Use of the drug for criminal purposes is common in Colombia and, to a lesser-extent, Ecuador. However, there are reports that its use is spreading.
There are many ways someone can drug you with Scopolamine. A drink, a cigarette, stick of chewing gum, food, cut with cocaine, etc.
Also, they can simply blow it in your face (although you're not likely to end up in a coma from this, you may fall under the other effects).
The drug is generally used to rape victims, or steal shit from them and/or their apartment.
It's particularly sneaky - because it's colourless and odourless, even savvy travellers get hit (I know one very experienced traveller who was recently 'scoped.' In part, this post is inspired by him).
That being said, there are some measures you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Let's go over some scenarios.
It's not uncommon for Colombians to share their liquor. Indeed, if you're at a table in a bar/club in Colombia, this will probably happen. Now, the person offering you a drink isn't necessarily trying to scope you. Don't get all weird about it and firmly reject their possible hospitality. Instead, what you'll want to do is watch them pour the drink, insist that they have one with you and watch him take it before taking yours. If he/she refuses this, don't risk taking the drink (say "I don't drink alone," or something like that. If you're anything like me, this will be a flagrant lie, but..).
While we're on the topic of drinks, you need to be sure to be watching yours. At. All. Times. Don't leave it to go to the bathroom, don't place it on a table. Keep that thing firmly in your hand and make sure no one is slipping anything into it. It helps to size up the crowd when you arrive. If you notice any local(s) scanning the crowd a bit too much for a bit too long, it's best to stay away.
Hitting on Women
This is Colombia - if you're a man, you're going to want to approach women. But you have to be discriminating, or else you could get into trouble. First of all, don't approach any woman who is alone. This is highly suspicious, since people don't often go out alone in Colombia. Chances are decent that she's looking for a target.
Don't let that be you.
I'd say, if a girl is alone or appears to be alone, leave her that way. Either a scoper or, more likely, a prostitute. Neither are what you want. Also, be wary of girls in pairs. Although it's common enough to see girls alone in pairs down here, it's a bit suspect. In my experience, most Colombians will go out in a mixed group of at least three (different than in Mexico, where you'll quite regularly see girls out alone in pairs). I'm not saying you shouldn't approach, but proceed with caution.
Yeah, I know. Not ideal. If you're at a bar or a club alone in Colombia, my best advice is to try to integrate yourself into a group. Use that group as a launching pad to meet women. That'll help reduce the chance of something happening to you.
At least, until you've been in the country long enough to develop your dodginess-radar.
When it comes to scopolamine, surprisingly, I haven't heard of anyone being victimized by a Tinder date. Seems like it would be remarkably easy to do - horny gringos begging girls to come straight to their apartments, you'd think half the work would be done for them!
But, alas, I haven't heard such tales.
Perhaps because Tinder forces you to connect your identity (at least somewhat) to the app.
I'm really not sure.
Anyhow, it's still worth mentioning a screening process for online dating.
First off, you want to see if these girls are normal. Make sure they have photos of their faces. None of these strange, low-quality, red-tinged, curiously angled photos in the mirror that leave out the face but show the body (anyone who's used Tinder in Latin America knows what I'm talking about!). You're only going to want to hit up girls that seem human. That means, photos of faces, photos with friends etc. Even better if they have a social media account linked to Tinder.
At least then, if they scope your ass, you may be able to determine who did it.
...not that it will help much if you bring your case to the police.
Some of ya'll might want to tuck into some drugs down here.
That's OK! Lord knows I'm not one to.............never mind.
Just don't be stupid about it. It's way too easy to introduce some scope into that coke. If you want to buy drugs in a country like Colombia or Ecuador, I highly advise you to get a trusted local to broker the transaction.
And, whatever you do, don't take drugs with strangers.
If you're buying drugs from a random on the street, a waiter or a taxi driver, they may allow you to "test the product" before buying - which you'll probably want to do so you know you're not buying something that's been cut to shreds.
Unfortunately, this is an easy way to get scoped. It lends itself to it. So, the solution is to let a local you know and trust to take care of this for you (easier said than done, I know).
Once you figure the source is trustworthy, his guy can become your guy.
Going Out Alone
If you're travelling alone (as I often do), you may find yourself in a situation where you're rolling solo to a bar or nightclub. This is fine, but be aware that you'll stand out as a mark.
If you find yourself going out alone in Colombia or Ecuador, first thing's first: don't get too drunk.
This is good advice regardless, but particularly important if you don't have dudes to watch your back.
And when it comes to dudes watching your back...
I've met many guys in hostels who are anxious to go out, but they're fucking liabilities. Can't handle their liquor and/or are too drug-obsessed.
Fuck these chaps. Leave 'em to get into trouble without you.
Second, be wary of women who approach you. Yes, this can happen with no sinister motives in Colombia, but it isn't THAT common, unless you're a particularly good looking man. Any girl who approaches you first is guilty until proven innocent. Entertain the conversation and watch the fuck out of your drink, and if anything doesn't seem right, keep it moving. Not worth the risk. Again, your best bet for going out alone is to try to integrate yourself into a mixed group. You can still pick up women this way and, often times, it's more conducive to doing so. If you're going out with a friend, it helps, but the ol' double-scope is quite common. That is, when you and your boy meet two girls that seem warm to your form, bring them home...
...then BAM. Ya'll are scoped and relieved of your shit.
When going out in Colombia, leave your fucking ego at home. You're not so charming or good-looking that girls will be throwing themselves at you at soon as you walk in the venue.
Now, the most talented scopists will have you believing that you initiated everything - from first contact, to bringing her home. She'll do most things right. Give you indictors of interest, put up a bit of resistance when you suggest going back to your place, appear nervous...
...then BAM! You're scoped. You wake up sick without your memory or valuables.
These are pros. Tough to catch, but there are some tells. We'll get to those now.
The Tells of A Scopolamine Artist
Like any profession, some folk who drug people will be more skilled than others. That being said, even the most talented scopolaminists will have identifiable tells.
Here are some of those.
1. Heavy indicators of interest
If a girl is incessantly staring and smiling at you in a bar or a club, it should set off red flags before flattery. Make that your default. Like I said, the most skilled will simply encourage you into an interaction as opposed to initiate it.
There is a difference between a normal girl who is checking you out, and a predator. The predator is "working" so to speak. That means that there is desperation to get a client. And that means that she'll always be more forward with her cues to approach than a normal gal would.
When trying to sort out who to approach, you should look for girls who are with their friends, dancing or chatting, but who will shoot you the occasional glance. You shouldn't look for the girl with a joker smile who can't take her eyes off you. While you never truly know (maybe the gal staring at you just really likes you, and maybe the subtle girl with her friends is a fucking Class-A scoper), being judicious about who you approach will reduce your risk.
2. Too generous
Colombians are a generous people by nature, so this can be tough to navigate. However, if you link up with someone who is a bit too anxious to share that drink or line of coke, your alarm bells should go off. A sinister tactic would be to gain your trust by sharing their bottle with you, drinking from it themselves to suggest they're not up to any tricks.
Then, later on, when you're a bit tipsy, they'll offer you a cigarette or a line and, before you know it....
...BAM, you're scoped.
Take the drinks when everyone is drinking out of the same bottle, but politely refuse any additional offers.
That would be my advice.
3. Tell-tale questions
Scope artists need to exercise efficiency. They want to find a victim, so they will give up on bad leads.
It's just business.
Therefore, there are usually a few key questions they'll ask off the bat to decide if you're a good mark.
Sometimes, these questions will be obviously betraying, such as "Do you live alone?" This shit isn't relevant. If any girl is asking you this within the first few minutes of dialogue, it's a fucking huge red flag. She basically wants to know if she'll have any issues robbing your stuff in peace, without any interruptions from a roommate.
Sometimes, the questions are less-obvious, like "where in the city are you staying?" This is tricky, because it is a common question that a normal girl might ask. What you need to look out for is, again, how early she asks this question. If it's within the first few minutes - or even within the first half-hour - it is not so normal. This question should only come up organically when you suggest taking a girl back to your place (she'll want to know where you're taking her/how far away it is from her own house, if she has to be home that night).
Just as important is the questions she's not asking - if she seems more interested in your living situation in the country as opposed to you as a person or where you're from, it's not normal.
4. Watch the Clock
I'll explain what I mean by this.
A girl who is looking to scope someone is not going to spend 4 hours in the bar/club.
Shit just isn't efficient.
If you notice a girl has been at the bar for 2-3 hours or more with her friends - and arrived somewhat early by Colombian going-out standards - she's probably fine. Scopers will generally roll to the bar near closing time and search for guys desperate to take someone home.
Again, it's simply a better ROI.
So, if you've been at the bar awhile, be wary of girls/guys vying for your attention that you haven't yet noticed. Working on leads earlier on in the night, as opposed to throwing a Hail-Mary at closing time, will reduce your chances of bringing home the wrong gal.
Again, throughout the night, be watching your drink. The scoping can happen either inside the venue or in your apartment once you bring a gal home (I'd say the latter is more common these days...drawing less attention and whatnot).
We'll talk about that now.
Bringing Girls Back To Your Apartment
So, you've got a gal at your apartment.
Congratulations! Virtual high five.
But, you're in a foreign country. You don't really know if you can trust this girl.
How do you ensure that she doesn't pull off a sneaky-scope on ya?
I'll tell you.
1. Keep your drink on you...always
Not new, covered it before. Always keep your drink in sight. That way, nothing can be slipped into it.
2. Stop drinking when she does...well, sort of
If a scope artist can't get your drink, she may go for the bottle. If she all of a sudden stops drinking, that's when you stop as well.
...Or, if you're like me and want to keep drinking, switch to a different bottle!
Have a bottle you keep in the vegetable crisper of the fridge (because she won't expect it to be there/you'll hear her if she tries to get at it). Start serving yourself that, instead.
Again, keep that drink with you always.
3. Keep your valuables hidden
If she is in fact a criminal, and realizes she can't scope you, she may try to pocket some of your shit before she leaves/once you fall asleep. Have your wallet and cash hidden away beforehand as a precaution.
Perhaps your computer as well, but that's usually out if you're watching a movie.
If that's the case, not too much you can do about hiding that, unfortunately. I would say take note if the girl is carrying an exceptionally large bag when she arrives. Shit isn't normal at all. Hopefully your doorman would say something if he spots her walking out with your laptop.
There isn't a 100% foolproof method to make sure that a girl won't steal some of your gear when you're sleeping, best thing you can do is make it tough for her.
If you have one those doors that can be locked from the inside, that will help.
There are urban legends of girls putting scopolamine on their tits, thereby drugging the guy when he licks it off.
(Don't worry, I'm not going to say don't lick any titties...that would be ridiculous!)
I have my doubts - can't see the dose being sufficient.
If you do get duped like this, shit, your number just came up. Plain and simple. Not much you could have done.
You have my sympathy.
There are more autistic measures you can take, of course. Never accepting a drink from anyone, ever...marking your drinking glass in the house in case someone tries to switch drinks on you...
But you want to have some fun down here.
And you don't want to be weird.
Do all that you can to reduce your risk, but don't be neurotic. Understand that scopolamine is out there, but it's not something that should keep you up at night. Unless you're completely reckless or clueless, your chance of being victimized on a 2-week or even a month-long vacation are quite slim.
At the end of the day, it's not that difficult to tell the normal girls from the pros. Trust your gut.
I think I can end things here.
Follow these tips, and you should have one less thing to worry about in South America.
And, if you have any useful advice to avoid being drugged in Latin America, share them in the comments below!
Hope you enjoyed,
Until next time,
Curious about the safety situation in Latin America? Check out my city guides for specifics.