Zombie drugs identified
Well, sort of.
For those not inclined to click the link, here’s the short version. The drug causes paralysis in all of the muscles of the body, which usually leads to respiratory failure. But in some cases the victim will maintain a faint heart beat, which is only detectable by EKG. During the time, the victim is completely aware (although without a sense of touch, according to fugu (the dish made from the deadly puffer fish) fanatics).
So what happens is that someone is given this drug without their knowledge, declared dead, presumably by doctors without modern life support systems? This is happening in Haitian villages. The victim is dug up, beaten, dragged off to a plantation, and then fed a diet of Datura stramonium. This plant is also known as “zombie cucumber” or more commonly, at least in the Northeast, Jimson Weed.
This weed contains tropane alkaloids that can act as true hallucinogens, detaching the consumer from reality. Its seeds are brewed into a tea by people wanting to get high here in the US, but it keeps the zombie slaves in some kind of a trance. It keeps them docile enough not to run away, and aware enough to do work.
While this is clearly horrible for the people stolen as zombies, it’s pretty fascinating. I’d heard of Haitian zombie myths before, but never in the context of anything besides superstition, usually in the context of voodoo. It’s good to know that one more superstition has been explained by science, yet another victory for naturalism.