Staying Safe in Colombia: How To Avoid Getting Drugged and Robbed

Submitted 3 years 3 months ago by Aleksey.

Colombia is much better to visit than it was a few years ago, but it still has its hazards, just like everywhere else. There are many things you can do to prevent problems and ensure that your trip to Colombia is enjoyable and trouble-free, so here are 21 important tips for staying healthy on a trip to Colombia.

Most people have learned about some of the risks that Colombia faces in the 21st century. People's tales of being drugged on a night out with a date and waking up the next day with little left in their apartment. Worse, stories of people who were drugged and died as a result of the overdose they were given. These are very real stories that have been published from various parts of Colombia, so this guide is intended to be applicable to *all* of Colombia, and, in fact, to all of Latin America.

Typically people refer to these situations where someone is drugged to then be robbed, as being “scoped.” This is in reference to the powerful drug “scopolamine” or “escopolamina” in Spanish. This is the “devil’s breath” drug/substance you will also see stories and videos about on the internet. Scopolamine, also known as Burundanga, is a powerful sedative extracted from the Brugmansia flower native to Colombia. Scopolamine is used as a central nervous system depressant to treat nausea, motion sickness, and increasingly for Parkinson’s symptoms and in anesthesia. It’s attracting attention for its potential in treating addiction, specifically nicotine.

While the plant is easy to find in parts of Colombia, processing it is expensive and many cases are misattributed to scopolamine, resulting instead from the cheaper benzodiazepine family of drugs that includes xanax and valium. A study by the Colombian Neurological Association (ACN) on 860 patients who had been admitted for scopolamine actually found that around 43.7% of them had benzos in their system. Only in 12.5% of cases was scopolamine detected.

These numerous overdose deaths were caused by the administration of “benzos” with tranquilizer drugs that make you incapacitated, and their symptoms are *multiplied* by alcohol, which is how these circumstances ended up as murders.

There are over 50,000 cases of 'Scopolamine' poisoning reported every year. It is said to turn people into zombies. The effects include extreme susceptibility, a zombie-like demeanor, and amnesia. According to reports from victims, these strategies varied from planting the scopolamine in snacks such as cookies or in drinks such as liquor, water, juice or soda in which it will immediately dissolve.

In the cases of some victims, the substance was ingested through the airway with some of them that were targeted in taxis, recalling that before they lost consciousness, the taxi driver had a very strong lotion or that he waved a rag or newspaper inside the car. Other victims indicated that merely by touch, they had suffered the effects of the drug, usually after receiving flyers or after being offered a product on the street.

However, ACN studies have shown that in 75% of cases, the drug was administered by a stranger who mixed it into their drink. If someone were to take tablets and pulverize them into a powder and blow it into your face, or if someone dipped a business card into a powdered or liquid preparation, I doubt that it would have much of an effect. While the substance often leaves the body within approximately six hours, the effects can be long lasting in some cases.

This guide is intended for both novice and seasoned travelers. The guide's goal is to remind you to *never* let your guard down. To stay healthy while dating in Colombia or enjoying Colombian nightlife, you must always be mindful of your surroundings and careful about your safety. Don't let your guard down just because you're in a nice area; you might be the next victim. You, sir.

How To Avoid Getting Drugged and Robbed

#1) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If things are happening so quickly, there is probably a reason for it. You're not as beautiful or charming as you think you are. You don't have the same stature as Brad Pitt. Girls approaching you within 5 minutes of meeting you is suspicious and out of the ordinary.

#2) Be suspicious if you met on Tinder. Right now. The majority of bad stories we've learned began with "I met this girl on Tinder..." so keep reading the rest of this guide! In all seriousness.

#3) Avoid being too flashy on Tinder or other dating sites. If you flaunt your riches too much, you can quickly move to the front of the line. You would be given priority over other potential victims because you are more likely to have more valuable items to steal.

#4) If you met a girl online, request her Facebook or Instagram account *before* meeting her! Everyone has an Instagram or a Facebook account. If a girl refuses to send you one, there is something wrong with her and she does not want you to know her true identity. If she gives you a profile, make sure it appears genuine and includes real feedback from real people. Check to make sure it's personal. We cannot emphasize how critical this is in weeding out potentially dangerous girls!!!

#5) Always remain in a building where there is a doorman!!! This is vital for your safety. The doorman should be treated as a friend and an additional line of protection in preventing your apartment from being robbed. Girls have been known to inquire as to where a person resides, whether they live in a building with a doorman or whether they would have any difficulties taking back someone who is intoxicated and may be unable to move. People can come and go as many times as they want until you are incapacitated if you do not have a doorman! Consider that!

#6) Inform your overnight doorman that your guests should not leave without your presence or without first ensuring your safety. Invest the time to learn how to describe this in Spanish, or use Google Translate to do so and write it up. A doorman is a vital line of defense, but they are not impenetrable. You should always make him aware of this request and ensure that he complies with it in order for him to be as successful as possible as a line of protection for you. Be certain that all of your building's doormen are aware of this.

#7) Do not go out with a girl if she asks to bring a friend with her. This makes it easier for them to exploit you. Standard girls would not ask such a question. This is a major red flag and a security concern. Newbies like to believe they'll end up with both ladies, but that's not the case, so don't fall for this one!

#8) Don't let the girl decide where you'll go on your date. If a girl wants to meet somewhere other than where you suggested, it may be because she thinks she can set you up there. There have been locations discovered to be participating in these operations, or at the very least to turn a blind eye to them taking place. Unless this is a well-known and highly reputable venue, this is a major red flag, and many newcomers ignore it.

#9) It's a red flag if a girl wants to order a taxi, either through an app or on the street. Do not take the cab or Uber that she claims she ordered!!! It is unusual for a girl to pay for her own taxi, so why would she be so adamant about ordering the taxi and getting you in a particular car? If they have staged the car for you to get into, you may be drugged or the car may be held up at gunpoint. This has been used this year, and a person almost died as a result of falling for it!

#10) Stop taking taxis on the route. Use Uber, Indriver, Cabify, or any other taxi app that keeps track of the taxi you took and where you went.

#11) Always, always, always, always watch your drink. Don’t let it out of your sight. If you do, go buy a new one to be safe. Don't let it escape your sight. Accepting drinks from strangers is also frowned upon, unless they are pouring it right in front of you and drinking it as well. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this one. The majority of druggings occur as a result of a girl sneaking something into your drink, so it is *extremely* important that you keep an eye out for this. It may be an attempt to drug you if a girl drops something to distract you or make you look away from your drink.

#12) Avoid getting too drunk on dates or at nightclubs. This should go without saying, but bad things can start when people notice you're already intoxicated and weak.

#13) Whether a girl does not have an ID (known as a cedula in Colombia) or is unable to reveal it to you, *your* doorman, or a bar/club doorman, this is a big red flag. If they have something to hide, it could be a red flag that something isn't right. You should call it a night at this stage. (Another explanation for hiring a doorman is that they do the screening for you.)

#14) Don't risk more than you're prepared to lose. It's really that easy. If you are robbed when out and about, at least you have minimized your losses.

#15) If at all possible, leave your credit or debit cards at home. This is done so that if you are abducted, they can not keep you for several days in order to use your cards twice. Yeah, we've seen this happen in 2019! Keep it safe by carrying just cash if necessary.

#16) Always enable the location tracking function on your phone. Alternatively, share your current position on WhatsApp with one of your closest friends so that they can monitor you if necessary. If something goes wrong, you should have someone who can see where you are at all times.

#17) Just because you live in a better neighborhood doesn't mean you're safe. Please never believe this. In all seriousness. Most of the stories we've heard about in Medellin, for example, take place in El Poblado, the city's most beautiful neighborhood. Criminals search out places where there is crime.

#18) Lock up or hide your valuables *before* you leave the house. If you've come this far on a date and still haven't detected something, bad things can still happen. If a girl wants to let herself out, she may snatch something expensive she sees lying around. (However, if you had that conversation with your doorman, she wouldn't get very far!)

#19) If red flags show when you're out, or if you feel nauseous or sick in some way, leave alone *immediately* and get into the first taxi available. Do not let someone accompany you or tell you which tax to join.

#20) When you're out on your date, try to take a picture with the girl, or at least with the girl, and give it to a friend. If the girl has poor intentions, she would be turned down for a formal invitation to photograph her. If anything bad happens, your buddy will have a photo of the girl you went out with.

#21) Before your date, take a screenshot of their Tinder profile and save their "Share" URL. One recurring trend among people who have been drugged and robbed is that the girls always unmatch them on Tinder. Obviously. You can provide more evidence to the police if you screenshot the girls' profile pictures and also use Tinder's "Share" option, which creates a connection back to the girls' profile. This relation can be used to find the profile that was used. If something goes wrong, this is one of the few ways you may be able to locate the guy. (Yes, Tinder has a department that collaborates with law enforcement in cases like this.)

#22) Go on coffee dates. Way safer than dates at night. Consider it.

Please read this thoroughly. Improve your street smarts and determination. Don't be stupid and go out late at night in sketchy areas, and you'll be fine; the main party areas where other gringos congregate are all pretty safe. The main concern is being drugged by chicas you bring back to your place, so be cautious; if anything about her behavior, such as her eagerness to return to your home, simply take her to a motel. Leave your debit/credit cards and passport at home, and avoid flashing cash, jewelry, or the new iPhone. We love Colombia, but these are the realities, and life can be extremely inexpensive here.