And then there’s the genre of viral content that TikTok truly excels at – that no other platform can compete for. Let’s call it, “person nearly kills themselves playing around with something they don’t realize is hilariously deadly” (ok maybe the name could use some work).
Whether it’s a cute little extremely deadly sea creature, risking burning to death from a grubby household appliance, or, uh, a different cute little extremely deadly sea creature, there is truly a wealth of nightmare fuel on there for anybody wondering what the youth of today get up to when their parents aren’t around.
And the latest addition to the TikTok repertoire is no exception. Singer-songwriter Raffaela Weyman uploaded a video of herself and a friend enjoying the “delicious smell” of a large yellow flower last week. Which sounds lovely, except that an equally valid way to describe the footage is “two young women accidentally drug themselves on camera using the world’s scariest hallucinogenic narcotic.”
“When we arrived at our friend’s birthday, we both suddenly felt so f*cked up and had to leave,” Weyman wrote in her TikTok. “Turns out the flower is super poisonous and we accidentally drugged ourselves like idiots.”
It turned out the women had stumbled across a flower known as Angel’s Trumpet. Aside from being a pretty and apparently sweet-smelling flower, it is also a source of scopolamine – more commonly (and accurately, given its effects) known as Devil’s Breath.
If you’ve heard anything about Devil’s Breath, it may well be horror stories of amnesia, hallucinations, and even “zombification”. Some of this is grounded in reality: it’s “horrible stuff”, Val Curran, professor of pharmacology at UCL’s Clinical Pharmacology Unit, told The Guardian.
“When I used to give it to people [in experiments], they hated it,” said Curran. “[It] makes your mouth really dry, it makes your pupils constrict. Certainly high doses would be completely incapacitating.”
But the more far-fetched claims, like tourists sent into a zombie-like state by a spiked business card or a mysterious powder blown into their face, waking up later to find their bank accounts empty and their organs sold to the black market? Those are unlikely.
“You get these scare stories and they have no toxicology, so nobody knows what it is,” Curran told The Guardian. “The idea that it is scopolamine is a bit far-fetched, because it could be anything.”
What’s certainly clear is that Weyman had a bad time with the drug.
“When I got home [and] fell asleep, I had the craziest dreams and experienced sleep paralysis for the [first] time in my life,” she wrote on TikTok.
If you’ve ever experienced sleep paralysis, you’ll know that it’s terrifying. But if the legends about scopolamine are to be believed, Weyman got off lightly: hazy “unofficial estimates” put the number of scopolamine attacks in Colombia as high as 50,000 per year, and there are even rumors that the drug was used by the Nazis to interrogate prisoners.
“It’s not a drug you can buy [on the street] in the way you might buy some other new psychoactive substance, some legal high, or whatever,” Curran explained to The Guardian. “It’s not available in that sense because it’s not a drug you would want to take for any pleasurable purpose.”