Interesting article on the history and current search for a drug that compels people to tell the truth:
There is no pharmaceutical compound today whose proven effect is the consistent or predictable enhancement of truth-telling.
Whether a search for truth serums has occurred in recent decades, and especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is a matter of differing opinion.
Gordon H. Barland was a captain in the U.S. Army Combat Development Command's intelligence agency in the 1960s. Before leaving active duty in 1967 he was asked to write up "materiel objectives." He put on the wish list a drug that would aid interrogation.
He later became a research psychologist and spent 14 years working at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute. While psychopharmacology was not his specialty, trying to catch liars was.
"I would have expected that if there was some sort of truth drug in general use I would have heard rumors of it. I never did," said Barland, who retired in 2000 and now lives in Utah. He further doubts that the government would again engage in such experiments, given the MK-ULTRA experience.
"It would be very difficult to get a project like that off the ground," he speculated.
Another psychologist who spent 20 years in military research said he also "never heard anything like that or knew of anyone who was doing that work." He spoke on the condition of anonymity because interrogation is not his specialty.
Some doubt the practicality of running, or keeping secret, such a research agenda.
"I can't imagine it," said Tara O'Toole, director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"We haven't been able as a government to create anthrax vaccine. The idea that we could develop a [truth] drug de novo strikes me as outlandish," she said. "That would be a really major research and development project that would be hard to hide."
For the record, spokesmen for the Army medical research command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the CIA say there is no work underway on truth serums.
Posted on November 22, 2006 at 8:43 AM • 41 Comments