Today’s Nature has a fantastic article about how psychoactive drugs are being developed into a new generation of chemical weapons design to have specific psychological effects on the enemy.
This has long been part of military research (see the famous and unintentionally hilarious footage of British troops being given LSD presumably from the 1950s) but the effects of the mind altering weapons have generally been thought to be too unpredictable and largely restricted to the lab.
However, the Nature article argues that as our knowledge increases and specific biochemical pathways in the body are discovered, chemical and biological weapons are likely to be deployed that target highly selective biological mechanisms to incapacitate and disable.
Some researchers are actively facilitating the development of new chemical weapons. For example, a research group from Pennsylvania State University in University Park has identified several drug classes as potential non-lethal agents or ‘calmatives’, including benzodiazepines and alpha2-adrenoreceptor agonists, as well as individual drugs such as diazepam and dexmedetomidine…
Those who support the development of incapacitating agents often argue that using them in conflict situations stops people being killed. Historical evidence suggests otherwise. At the Nord-Ost [Moscow theatre] siege, for instance, terrorists exposed to the fentanyl mixture were shot dead rather than arrested. Likewise, in Vietnam, the US military used vast quantities of CS gas ‚Äî a ‘non-lethal’ riot-control agent ‚Äî to increase the effectiveness of conventional weapons by flushing the Viet Cong out of their hiding places.
The piece notes that the current international laws on chemical and biological weapons do not address this form of armament which are typically marketed under the ‘non-lethal weaponry’ banner.
From past experience, including the fact that the fentanyl-based ‘incapacitating’ gas seemed to have killed the majority of people during the Moscow theatre siege, it is likely that they will be used in anything but a non-lethal manner.
Link to Nature ‘Biologists napping while work militarized’.