Otherwise referred to as “Devil’s Breath,” scopolamine is hyoscine or a natural or synthetic tropane alkaloid and anticholinergic drug that’s officially used as a medication for treating motion sickness and postoperative nausea and vomiting. Scopolamine is usually administered as a transdermal patch that sits on the skin.
The drug prevents communication between nerves of the vestibule and the vomiting center in the brain by blocking the effects of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that contracts smooth muscles, dilates blood vessels, increases bodily secretions, and slows the heart rate. As safe as this medication is when administered by medical professionals, scopolamine withdrawal is a common problem among patients who stop taking the drug.
What Is Scopolamine (Patch) Withdrawal?
Scopolamine is also known as Devil’s Breath because it contains a chemical similar to scopolamine called “burundanga.” Devil’s Breath is derived from the flower of the “borrachero” shrub, which is common in Colombia. When powdered and extracted through a chemical process, the seeds of the borrachero shrub contain “burundanga.” The compound is said to produce hallucinations, frightening images, and a lack of free will.
While Devil’s Breath is considered a street drug, it’s also available with a prescription as scopolamine. This drug is available in a 1.5 mg transdermal patch worn behind the ear to help ward off motion sickness. The medication is slowly absorbed through the skin from a specialized rate-controlling membrane found in the patch. The patch can be worn for three days before it needs to be replaced.
Despite not being a controlled substance, scopolamine can cause adverse side effects, including physical dependence. Scopolamine withdrawal syndrome is under-recognized and therefore under-treated.
Scopolamine withdrawal has been reported in people who have used the patch for three days or longer, although there was at least one case in which a patient who only wore the patch for 24 hours experienced withdrawals after removing it.
Another instance was that of a man who used a scopolamine patch on a cruise trip as directed behind his left ear. He started 4 hours before starting the trip, and after 2 days, the patch came loose off and on in showers. The man left the patch on for a total of 6 days, as it could still stick to his skin. It wasn’t until after day 10 when he put on another new patch anticipating rough cruising on the ship’s way back home.
He took the patch off after 24 hours the night before the ship docked. Then, 48 hours later, he experienced motion sickness, nausea, and the inability to stand upright for long. Withdrawal symptoms were severe enough to keep the man from working for two days. He slowly somewhat recovered after the third day and fully recovered within a week.
The same study shows additional cases of people wearing scopolamine patches (for longer than directed) and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when said patches were removed. Although dizziness may seem minor compared with opiate withdrawal symptoms, scopolamine withdrawals are often severe enough to incapacitate someone and keep them bedridden for a week or longer.
Common Scopolamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal occurs when a person who’s become physically dependent on a drug suddenly stops taking it or drastically cuts down their doses. Withdrawal from a scopolamine patch can occur as soon as 24 hours after the patch is removed and can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Common scopolamine patch withdrawal symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or prickling sensations in the hands and feet
- Dysphoria (generalized dissatisfaction with life)
- Poor balance and coordination
It was found that the longer patches were used, the higher the risk of withdrawal symptoms. No withdrawal symptoms were discovered when scopolamine patches were used for less than 72 hours, which is the recommended duration of use.
Fortunately, no deaths have been linked to scopolamine withdrawal, according to research. Even so, the extended rate of scopolamine abuse is unknown.
Scopolamine is a dangerous drug because it produces a zombie-like effect in users, causing docility, lack of free will, memory loss, and unpleasant hallucinations, making it a common date rape drug. In fact, scopolamine’s side effects are so strong that it has at times been used by governments as a “truth serum” during interrogations.
The drug is made from the borrachero shrub in Colombia, scopolamine abuse and related crimes are especially common in the country. Up to 50,000 scopolamine-related crimes occur every year in Colombia. Twenty percent of emergency room visits in Bogota are linked to scopolamine poisoning, and up to 70% of scopolamine patients have been robbed while under the influence of the drug.
Unfortunately, while not as popular, scopolamine is abused in the U.S.
How to Avoid Scopolamine Withdrawal
The best way to avoid scopolamine withdrawal is to use the patch as directed by a doctor. If you do happen to experience symptoms, specialists at our Banyan Lake Worth rehab center know how to treat scopolamine withdrawal swiftly and safely.
With the help of medically-assisted detox, you or a loved one can be slowly weaned off scopolamine under the 24-hour care and supervision of our medical team. Our staff ensures that clients are as safe, comfortable, and healthy as possible as they recover from withdrawals.
Our medical team may even administer medication as needed to reduce discomfort or pain during the detox process. Whether it’s prescription or illegal drugs, our BHOPB detox programs can help.