This is the story of how an innocuous byproduct of adrenaline (epinephrine) called adrenochrome, first discovered in the fifties, has evolved into one of the most dangerous urban legends of our time.
Satanic rituals, urban legends and abducted kids are all familiar topics to most of us and with the release of the Sound of Freedom, a Mel Gibson backed movie exposing child trafficking, the topics are on everyone’s lips. Adrenochrome, not so much, that is until Sound of Freedom, ably abetted by actor Jim Caviezel, breathed life into it again.
Depending on who you choose to believe, adrenochrome is either an important, yet not fully understood element of the disease, schizophrenia – that’s the medical version – or it’s the life prolonging, fountain of youth obtained from the terrified body of a young child sacrificed for this very purpose– the urban myth.
Here first, is what some of the villagers choose to believe about Adrenochrome and then we’ll check in on the real world.
Harvesting the “Elixir of Youth”
Adrenochrome is produced by our bodies when we are in a state of heightened fear or terror. According to the urban legend, this byproduct of adrenalin, when consumed, melts away wrinkles, takes years off your face and if the stories are to be believed, is nothing short of the fountain of youth. Hollywood, they claim, are the main consumers of adrenochrome.
Enter the children, abducted and taken to remote areas where they are, according to Caviezel, tortured and literally scared to death. At this point the adrenochrome the children have produced is harvested from their lifeless bodies and sold on the black market for huge profit. For people without scruples or the brain capacity to critically analyze the urban legend, you can see why the business model would be appealing.
For every idiot vendor there is, of course, an even stupider client. People with more money than sense, who will literally try anything to arrest or reverse the ageing process. Combine the two and voilà, you have a supply chin and customers, all thanks to crazy online, self-fulfilling horseshit, none of which happens to be true.
We have developed a love affair with conspiracy theories over the last few decades. Most are harmless. For instance the secret (obviously not so much anymore) Nazi base in the center of the earth, accessible through a hidden entrance in the Arctic, isn’t going to overrun the world tomorrow with an army of highly trained penguins. No harm there. Insanity in buckets, but no harm.
Some theories are however incredibly dangerous. They pose a real threat to the well-being of our communities, the safety of our person and our children. The adrenochrome urban legend is right up there in terms of risk. Extremely so, and Gibson, with his latest foray into supporting “cinematic story telling” may be unwittingly contributing to the market value of street urchins.
His support, however well intended, has allowed Caviezel a platform to conflate the movie with adrenochrome, imbuing it with powers it does not posses. In short, Sound of Freedom’s Jim Caviezel is trying to breathe life into an urban legend.
Let’s examine exactly what Adrenochrome is, what it does and where it comes from. This is essential in understanding how the urban legend evolved and as with all urban legends, there is a sliver of reality mixed in with the fairy tale.
The Discovery of Adrenochrome
In short, this compound was first isolated in a laboratory in the fifties and researchers initially believed its absence in Schizophrenia patients was important.
It is created naturally as a byproduct in our bodies by the oxidation of adrenaline. We release adrenaline when we experience fear or our body feels threatened in some way. That explains the need described above for terrifying innocent street waifs. Showing them Disney movies isn’t going to get the adrenaline pumping.
Scientists are currently studying a derivative of adrenochrome that offers promise in the field of surgery by increasing the bloods ability to clot, thus reducing bleeding.
The only clinical tests of adrenochrome were in the fifties, and they were both brief and inconclusive. We did however establish that the long term affects of ingesting the compound led to psychotic episodes and serious mental issues. Adrenochrome doesn’t appear to agree with our brains.
There is ZERO evidence in the scientific literature of anything to support the anti-aging and psychedelic affects ascribed to the compound, in fact, quite the opposite. Adrenochrome just doesn’t live up to all the hype, so where then does all the craziness come from?
Say Hello to Fear and Loathing
Hunter S. Thompson and Aldous Huxley most likely share the blame. Both referred to the compound in their writing. Both made fictitious claims about the compound, Huxley out of ignorance and Thompson, well he was just being Thompson. Gonzo, full steam ahead. He was creating his style of fiction.
In the movie Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, based on Thompson’s book by the same title, Johnny Depp’s character is shown using an ampule of ‘adrenochrome’ in one of the drug fueled binges that permeate the movie. If you haven’t watched , you should. It’s a cult classic.
Gonzo journalism, the writing style Thompson invented, is based around the fictionalization and exaggeration of real-life events. In the DVD commentary of the 1998 movie adaptation, director Terry Gilliam said Thompson told him he made the whole adrenochrome thing up.
It could have been any compound, Thompson simply chose adrenochrome, possibly motivated by the fact little was known of it.
In Aldous Huxley’s 1954 essay “The Doors of Perception”, written about his experiences with mescaline, Huxley discusses the possibility that adrenochrome is a compound with similar effects to the psychedelic cactus.
He had not used it and had no idea how to obtain it, other than saying it was spontaneously produced by the human body. He described it as “a product of the decomposition of adrenaline”, which is, surprisingly, correct.
A little truth mixed in with a lot of fiction.
That seems to be the fate of adrenochrome. It is destined, along with 5G, Elvis, Nazi penguins and hollow moons to become the stuff of urban legend.
Which, as I suggested earlier, is all good and well, except that in this instance it poses a very real danger to children. Whilst you and I are able to comprehend the difference between fairy tales and fact, many cannot.
As long as we live in a world where people drink bleach, ban abortions, wear tinfoil hats and vote for Trump (again), we need to suppress dangerous lies.
Society needs to filter out the untruths we feed each other to avoid the loss of even one child’s life. Social media companies need to address these threads, remove them and warn their users. Spreading lies, even if you believe them to be true, can cost lives. By tweeting your fictitious fairy tales, you are simply providing the seeds for the harvesting of more children for profit. Stop it.
Lastly, a parting thought for supporters of the urban legend. The oxidation reaction that converts adrenaline into adrenochrome occurs both in vivo and in vitro. In other words, you can produce adrenochrome in a body or a test tube. I suspect the test tube may be cheaper, quicker and a lot less illegal than abducting children.