Drugs That Affect Behavior - And Why You Should Worry About ThemScience and Technology are a two edged sword. We can live happier and healthier and more interesting lives because of them. But technology also can be harnessed to serve man's evil inclinations. This web page is about a danger most people haven't thought of at all. Its so new, there isn't even a word for it. And yet the fragments of information are available on the web, if you look for them. You just have to put them together.
Colonel Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov (aka Ken Alibek), was deputy director of Biopreparat, a large Soviet biological warfare development program prior to his defection in 1992 to the United States. He published his memoirs, Biohazard, in 1998. In his book, he describes a top secret covert KGB development program, codenamed Fleta (Flute). He learned about the project but could not penetrate it because of its extreme secrecy. Nevertheless, he was able to learn enough to establish its mission: the development of psycho-active drugs and neuro-toxins to "alter personalities and modify human behavior".
Now think about this. A country that has some of world's top military technology, and which lacks inhibitions when it comes to issues of human rights, has been investigating drugs to affect human behavior. What possibly could it come up with?
Well rather than fantasize about these drugs, I'll talk about drugs we already know about, and then speculate a little.
Here's another drug that we know exists. This is also taken from Wikipedia.
Then there are drugs that enhance suggestibility. Recently they were in the news, with the "false memory" cases. Therapists would convince their patients that the patients troubles were due to forgotten sexual abuse by their parents. These therapists used barbiturates to help elicit the memories, and the drugs actually had the effect of helping convince the patient that they had suddenly remembered such abuse.
We could also speculate that if you can convince a patient that their parents are molesters, you might also be able to convince a person something like: "when you walk past the man in the tan coat and the grey fedora, say your online bank password aloud three times." or worse still, "when you drive over the bridge tomorrow, turn your steering wheel all the way to the right".
Here is another item of interest. In 2002 there was the Moscow theatre hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, which was the seizure of a crowded Moscow theatre on October 23, 2002 by about 40-50 armed Chechen rebel fighters. The Russians could not just storm the theatre because of the many hostages. So after a two-and-a-half day siege, Russian OSNAZ forces pumped an unknown chemical agent into the building's ventilation system. This agent put the terrorists to sleep. One problem with the chemical that OSNAZ used is that it did more than put terrorists to sleep. It put the hostages to sleep as well, and many died. But terrorists were caught, and some hostages survived. (I wouldn't want to be those terrorists, in whatever interrogation center they now are). As I also recall, some people guess the agent was some type of anesthetic. But nobody really knows. Except the Russians, of course.
What are the implications? Well, if you can fill a large theatre with a drug, then no doubt you can fill a small room, or a corporate boardroom, or a cockpit of a plane.
The chemical that OSNAZ used was obviously very flawed, in that it killed some of the people it was supposed to save. But we could speculate whether less dangerous sleeping agents may also exist. After all, we sell sleeping pills in our drugstores, some of them can only be obtained with a prescription. Perhaps a drug has been developed in some secret laboratory that can put people to sleep quickly. This might be misused by a thief (or a spy) who wanted to rifle the pockets of a person to copy their keys, for instance.
The Russians are not above killing people for criticizing them. Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB and KGB, who escaped prosecution in Russia and received political asylum in the United Kingdom. He authored two books, "Blowing up Russia: Terror from within" and "Lubyanka Criminal Group", where he accused the Russian secret services of staging Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts to bring Vladimir Putin to power.
On 1 November 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later, becoming the first confirmed victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome.
Even democracies may be using drugs on enemies. In the mid 1970's, an author named John Marks submitted a Freedom of Information Act for documents on the CIA's MKULTRA program. This program was meant to develop drugs to affect behavior. John Marks then wrote a book on it (the book was commissioned by the New York Times). The book was titled "The Search For The Manchurian Candidate". In the book, MKULTRA is portrayed as a collection of unprofessional experiments and LSD tests of a most childish nature. There is zero indication that anything of value had been accomplished either by the CIA or the Soviet KGB. But two interesting facts did come through - namely that by 1957, 6 drugs had been moved into operational use and had been employed against 33 targets. (I have been told by a person who knows people in the CIA that they are a moral upstanding organization, and furthermore I've heard that various paranoid individuals latch onto the MKULTRA project as proof of their beliefs, but I include the item anyway.)
If back in 1957, drugs were being used by our own government, hopefully only on bad guys, we have to wonder, now in 2010, what can be done by less scrupulous governments.
Even general knowledge of college biology can tell you of chemicals that affect behavior. For instance, one scientific paper on the web (http://www.oxytocin.org/oxy/pairbonding.html) describes how: "Several lines of evidence support a role for oxytocin and vasopressin in complex social behaviors, including parental care, sex behavior, and aggression. Recent studies in a monogamous mammal, the prairie vole, suggest an additional role for both peptides in the formation of pair bonds." Other articles on the web suggest oxytocin can encourage friendship. Could a drug that encouraged feelings of "friendship", if one has been invented in some far-off laboratory, be misused?
Now you may think that none of this could affect you. If you are not an important political figure, or a spy, then why worry about whatever the Russians, or the Cubans, or whoever else might be cooking up in their laboratories. And even if you were important, or involved in the "cloak and dagger" world, you just have to be careful to keep an eye on your tea when you drink it with a dubious visitor from Russia (as Litvinenko is thought to have done). And finally, how long could a drug last, anyway? A transitory effect on behavior is nothing to worry about.
Well that may be true if this kind of technology is limited to governments with specific agendas. But there are other groups within society that might like the power that would come from an undetectable techology of affecting behavior. There are groups of both far right and far left who evince an extraordinary hatred for opponents, judging by their rhetoric, for instance. The U.S has organized crime groups - from Italy, from Russia, from Latin America, from the Middle East and of course home-grown. They might target more ordinary individuals - such as you, for example.
As far as avoiding tea from strangers, here is a final thought to make a even more paranoid scenario. Terrorists have thought of ways to get poisons into people, for instance I remember hearing of a Moslem terrorist idea of putting some poison (I think it was cyanide) in a paste on a doorknob. The idea was that the targeted victim would open the doorknob and thus absorb the poison.
We also know that chemicals have been used in warfare. For instance, Saddam Hussein attacked some of his Kurdish citizen's villages with agents. There was a "60 Minutes" TV documtary showing the results on the people who survived but were permanently impaired. It was not pretty.
As far as transitory effects on behavior, sometimes thats all it takes to make a difference. But if long term dosage is required, we should remember the story of how the Israelis killed a terrorist named Wadia Haddad in Baghdad.
Suspected in multiple hijackings, including the 1976 takeover of an Air France airplane in Entebbe, Uganda, Haddad knew from the Israeli tactics that he could be shot or bombed as he walked the street or picked up a phone.
But he didn't suspect that he could be gradually poisoned. And thats what happened. A Palestinian working with the Mossad (Israeli spy agency) who had gotten close to Haddad gave Haddad chocolate brought from Belgium for several months. It didn't kill Haddad immediately - he just got sicker and sicker for six months, and then he was dead. My point is that if someone can get you to ingest food for a few months, then the "transitory" issue is moot.
A technology like this is basically undetectable. What happened to Litvinenko was straight forward murder of a healthy man with a poison that could be detected by a radioactive counter. But a drug that affects behavior would never be suspected, because people assume their behavior is under their control.
Back to Fleta. Here is a Russian program that was going strong before 1992, and for all we know is still active. Thats at least 20 years of developing drugs with the modern technology that we have today. And since it is an unethical technology, we don't pursue it outselves, and so we don't even know what is possible. The Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And here is a technology that can change you - and you wouldn't even know that you had been changed. With imagination, one can even think of ways that this technology could change history.