A "truth serum" is a colloquial name for any of a range of psychoactive medications used to obtain information from subjects who are unable or unwilling to provide it otherwise. Any information from the truth serum report is corroborated by further investigation. They are lawfully and productively used in investigation in select civil and all criminal cases and the evaluation of psychotic patients in the practice of psychiatry. That application was first documented by Dr. William Bleckwenn in 1930, and it still has selected uses today. In the latter context, the controlled administration of intravenous hypnotic medications is called "narcosynthesis" or "narcoanalysis." It may be used to procure diagnostically—or therapeutically—vital information, and to provide patients with a functional respite from catatonia or mania.
Active chemical substances 
Sedatives or hypnotics that alter higher cognitive function include ethanol, scopolamine, 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, potent short or intermediate acting hypnotic benzodiazepines such as midazolam, flunitrazepam, temazepam, and various short and ultra-short acting barbiturates including sodium thiopental (commonly known as sodium pentothal) and amobarbital (sodium amytal) (see figure at right).
While there have been many clinical studies of the efficacy of narcoanalysis in interrogation or lie detection, there is no agreement that any qualify as randomized controlled studies, the scientific standard for determining such effectiveness.
Used in courses at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, the manual says that to recruit and control informants, counterintelligence agents could use fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum (narco test), according to a secret Defense Department summary of the manuals compiled during a 1992 investigation of the instructional material.
Use by country 
In another case, Madhya Pradesh High Court permitted narco in the investigation of a tiger killing.
A defector from the biological weapons department 12 of the KGB "illegals" (S) directorate (presently a part of Russian SVR service) claimed that a truth serum codenamed SP-117 was highly effective and has been widely used. According to him, "The 'remedy which loosens the tongue' has no taste, no smell, no colour, and no immediate side effects. And, most important, a person has no recollection of having the 'heart-to-heart talk'" and felt afterwards as if they suddenly fell asleep. Officers of the S directorate used the drug primarily to check the trustworthiness of their own illegal agents who operated overseas, including even heroes of the service, such as Vitaly Yurchenko. According to Alexander Litvinenko, Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin was drugged with the same substance by FSB agents during his alleged kidnapping.
United States 
In 1963 the US Supreme Court ruled that confessions produced as a result of ingestion of truth serum was "unconstitutionally coerced", and therefore inadmissible.
The viability of forensic evidence produced from "truth sera" has been addressed in lower courts – judges and expert witnesses have generally agreed that they are not reliable for lie detection.
In fiction 
Fictional accounts of intelligence interrogation give truth serums near magical abilities, ranging from instant effects to near-lucid (but totally truthful) speech on part of the subject. Many fictional stories also toy with the distinction between what the person under the influence of the truth serum believes is true and what is really true.
In Truth Or Consequences, an episode of NCIS, Tony takes some kind of truth serum while captured by a terrorist in Somalia.
In the film Guns of Navarone, the Germans interrogate Major Franklin with scopalamine to reveal the site of a planned Allied attack on the island of Navarone.
In the fourth novel of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", a magical truth serum called Veritaserum is used on the Death Eater Bartemius "Barty" Crouch, Junior who has been masquerading as the Auror Alastor "Mad-eye" Moody, to reveal the truth of his work. In this particular case, the serum is 100% effective with complete incapacity to lie. However, there are various magical ways to protect against it, but the fake Moody was unable to use any of them.
In the film Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson uses a hypodermic needle filled with truth serum disguised in a ring. The serum is rather effective, with the victim even volunteering additional information.
In the film True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character is injected with truth serum; his wife takes advantage of this and asks him some questions about his job as a government counter-terrorist agent.
In the film The Good Shepherd, Central Intelligence Agency interrogators use a vial filled with LSD in an attempt to determine the validity of information a Soviet defector provided the Agency. LSD, at the time that the film is set, was being experimented with by various organizations to determine its effectiveness as a truth serum. These kinds of tests were carried forward under other studies, the most encompassing study being the Agency's Project MKULTRA.
In Greg Cox's Star Trek novel The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Satrina Kaur of the Chrysalis organization injects Gary Seven with a truth serum to find out who he is and where he is from, as well as his mission.
In the TV series 24, Hyoscine-pentothal is a fictional serum used to interrogate suspects. It supposedly also utilizes pain as an additional incentive. An overdose of the serum can cause cardiac arrest.
In an episode of The Fairly Odd Parents, Vicky injects Timmy with a generic truth serum (once to get his deepest secrets out, another time to get him to leak out where he found out she was in love with a stereotypical Brit).
In Prisoners of War, Uri is given a truth serum by the Israeli army to reveal what happened to him in captivity. Despite being told he's being given vitamins, the nausea he experiences is the same as when he was given truth serum by his captors.
In the book "Divergent" and "Insurgent" by Veronica Roth, the truth serum is used by the people in the Candor faction to get secrets out of people, as they value honesty. It is used in Insurgent to get the truth out of Tobias (Four) and Beatrice (Tris)
See also 
Further reading 
- Brown, David. "Some Believe 'Truth Serums' Will Come Back", The Washington Post, Monday 20 November 2006; page A08.
- Naples M, Hackett TP: The amytal interview: history and current uses. Psychosomatics01 1978; 19: 98–105.
- Bleckwenn WJ: Sodium amytal in certain nervous and mental conditions. Wis Med J 1930; 29: 693–696.
- Tollefson GD: The amobarbital interview in the differential diagnosis of catatonia. Psychosomatics 1982; 23: 437–438.
- Bleckwenn WJ: Production of sleep and rest in psychotic cases. Arch Neurol Psychiatry 1930; 24: 365–375.
- Anonymous: Barbiturates. http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/A-Ce/Barbiturates.html, Accessed 9-21-2009.
- There is some controversy to this point; see IJME debate in Jesani, Amar (Oct-Dec 2006). "Medical professionals and interrogation: lies about finding the 'truth'". Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (Editorial) (Mumbai) 3 (4): 116. "A PubMed search found 26 references from 1997 to 2001 (or 5.2 publications per year), but in less than five years (2002 to July 2006) the number has more than tripled to 83 or 16.6 publications per year. Many of these are randomised controlled trials." and Jesani, Amar (Jan-Mar 2007). "Misconceptions about narco analysis". Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (Editorial reply) (Mumbai) 4 (1): 7. "It is true that the number of research publications on lie detection has tripled during 2002-2006. But no material has been produced that can be described as randomised controlled trials."
- A simple search: Misquitta, Neville (28). "Narcoanalysis - spies, lies and truth serum". Psychiatry and Society in Pune (blog). Retrieved 12 Mar 2013. "A PubMed search using the MeSH term ‘narcotherapy’ gives just two articles in the last ten years. There are no randomised control studies - the scientific standard - to demonstrate the reproducibility of results obtained by narcoanalysis for information gathering, abreaction, or lie detection."
- Lakshman, Sriram (May 2007). "Narcoanalysis and some hard facts". Frontline 24 (9). Retrieved 12 Mar 2013. "Given the nature of narcoanalysis, it is not possible to get volunteers to facilitate controlled studies."
- Bimmerle, George. ""Truth" Drugs in Interrogation". Center for the Study of Intelligence (CIA) 5 (2). https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol5no2/html/v05i2a09p_0001.htm. Retrieved 12 March 2013. "The almost total absence of controlled experimental studies of "truth" drugs and the spotty and anecdotal nature of psychiatric and police evidence require that extrapolations to intelligence operations be made with care."
- "Mumbai attacks: Militant kept in underwear to prevent suicide". The Daily Telegraph. 8 December 2008.
- "Exclusive: The Kasab Confession Part - 1".
- "No narcoanalysis test without consent, says SC". The Times Of India. May 5, 2010. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- "HC permits narco test of 3 forest staffers". May 2, 2012.
- Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-85367-646-2 .
- Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko. Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB. New York: Free Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4165-5165-2.
- Townsend v. Sain, Sheriff, et al., 372 U.S. 293, 307-308
- See for example State v. Pitts, 116 N.J. 580 (The Supreme Court of New Jersey 1989) (“Three experts ... agreed that sodium-amytal-induced interviews are not considered scientifically reliable for the purpose of ascertaining "truth."”).
- P. Solomon Banda; Dan Elliott (11 Mar 2013). "Judge OKs medication for Colorado shooting suspect". Yahoo! News. AP.