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Adrenochrome chemical diagram
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Adrenochrome is a naturally-occurring chemical. It is produced by vertebrates from oxidation of adrenaline (a.k.a. epinephrine) that is produced by the adrenal gland.

In the 1950s-1960s, several small-scale experiments were conducted that reported that psychotic reactions were produced from administration of adrenochrome to human subjects.[1] In 1952, Abram Hoffer and Humphry F. Osmond proposed the adrenochrome hypothesis for the biogenesis of schizophrenia.[2] The hypothesis proposed that people had schizophrenia because of excessive amounts of adrenochrome and that megadoses of vitamin C and niacin would cure it.[3] Empirical evidence has since revealed this hypothesis to be flawed.[2]

Fabrication leads to fiction[edit]

Following quickly on the footsteps of Hoffer and Osmond, Aldous Huxley wrote in his 1954 essay The Doors of Perception, "Then came the discovery that adrenochrome, which is a product of the decomposition of adrenalin, can produce many of the symptoms observed in mescalin intoxication."[4] However, Huxley admitted that he had no experience with adrenochrome to compare with his personal mescaline experimentation.[5]

Anthony Burgess in his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange using an invented dialect mentioned a drug called 'drencrom', clearly referencing adrenochrome in Huxley's essay ("…you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc[note 1] or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow…").[6][7][note 2]

In his 1967 short story "The Blood of a Wig", author Terry Southern (who co-wrote the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove with Stanley Kubrick) referred obliquely to the by-then fabled adrenochrome-schizophrenia connection:[9]:242

I had, in fact, read about it in a recent article in the Times — how they had shot up a bunch of volunteer prisoners (very normal, healthy guys, of course) with the blood of schizophrenia patients — and the effect had been quite pronounced … in some cases, manic; in other cases, depressive — about 50/50 as I recalled.

Of course, in reality, there is no evidence that blood transfusions can transfer mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Hunter S. Thompson is perhaps the king of adrenochrome mythology, having outpaced Burgess with two books and one film. In the books Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail '72 ("…my memory of the conversation is hazy, due to massive ingestion of booze, fatback. and forty cc's of adrenochrome.")[10]:140 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ("I thought he was kidding, so I told him I’d just as soon have an ounce or so of pure adrenochrome — or maybe just a fresh adrenalin gland to chew on.”),[11]:132 as well as the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that was directed by Terry Gilliam.[12] In the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson added to the mythology by writing, "The adrenaline glands from a living human body. It's no good if you get it out of a corpse."[11]:132 Gilliam in the DVD commentary said that the description of adrenochrome was a fictionalization. The claim that adrenochrome can only be procured from the adrenal glands of a live body is fallacious, since adrenochrome has a relatively simple structure that can easily be synthesized in a lab,[13][14] and there is no difference between synthetically-obtained and naturally-obtained chemicals that are equally pure (appeal to nature).

As a plot device, adrenochrome seemed to have a degree of immortality. In 2007, an episode of the British TV detective series Inspector Lewis: "As an undergraduate, he was a member of The Sons of the Twice Born, a hedonistic group that aspired to the principals of Dionysus, and who once killed in an attempt to experience the ultimate drug: Adrenochrome, found in the human adrenal gland."[15] And in 2017, an eponymous horror movie was produced.[16]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Conspiracy theory

Over time, adrenochrome has morphed from a scientific hypothesis (Hoffer and Osmond) to an unsubstantiated drug claim (Huxley) to a plot device in fiction (Burgess and subsequent authors), falling into the "Fantastic Drug" TV trope.[17] The time was ripe for folding adrenochrome into conspiracy theories.

Adrenochrome first entered the world of conspiracy theories with an article in YourNewsWire, a fake news website specializing in conspiracy theories. The article claimed that there was a dark web video, code named Frazzledrip, showing "Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin raping and mutilating a prepubescent girl."[18] The article further claimed that "It is believed they were terrorizing the young girl, deliberately causing the child’s body to release Adrenochrome into her bloodstream before bleeding her out and drinking the blood during a Satanic ritual sacrifice."[18][19] The claim soon became rolled into a Pizzagate offshoot known as Frazzledrip.

Although Q has never mentioned adenochrome, adenochrome appears frequently in screeds by QAnon promoters, who naturally associate it with antisemitic tropes such as blood libel.[20]:52-55,248 Apparently, the ubiquitous "global elites"[21] go to all this trouble because adrenochrome is some sort of magical youth serum. The question of why exactly you would need to harvest the drug from humans when it can be "readily synthesized"[22] in a lab, or what evidence there is that adrenochrome does anything more than produce "hallucinations"[22] (or just a massive headache)[23] when consumed, has yet to be answered by those touting the conspiracy.

Perhaps artisanal adrenochrome has a better flavour?


A glass ampule of adrenochrome

According to one user of psychoactive substances, adrenochrome produced no hallucinations, but did produce the "worst headache imaginable",[23] lasting on-and-off for seven days.

See also[edit]


  1. synthetic mescaline
  2. Drencrom also appeared in the film version of A Clockwork Orange, "The Korova Milk Bar sold milkplus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom which is what we were drinking."[8]


  1. The adrenochrome hypothesis of schizophrenia revisited by John Smythies (2002) Neurotox. Res. 4(2):147-50. doi:10.1080/10298420290015827.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hallucinogens as hard science: the adrenochrome hypothesis for the biogenesis of schizophrenia by John A Mills (2010) Hist. Psychol. 13(2):178-95. doi:10.1037/a0019394.
  3. Schizophrenia: An Evolutionary Defense Against Severe Stress by A. Hoffer (1994) Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 9(4):205-221.
  4. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954) Chatto & Windus.
  5. The truth about adrenochrome by Josie Adams (April 7, 2020) The Spinoff.
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962) William Heinemann.
  7. Moloko Plus A Clockwork Orange Wiki.
  8. A Clockwork Orange Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick
  9. "The Blood of a Wig" in: Red-Dirt Marijuana, and Other Tastes by Terry Southern (1967) New American Library. pp. 231-246.
  10. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson (1973) Straight Arrow Books.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson (1971) Random House.
  12. 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Terry Gilliam & Tony Grisoni, The Daily Script.
  13. I read that adrenochrome is harvested from fearful children after killing them, do you know anything about that? Erowid.
  14. Adrenochrome Sigma-Aldrich.
  15. Inspector Lewis Series 1 editorial review at
  16. Adrenochrome IMDb.
  17. Fantastic Drug TV Tropes.
  18. 18.0 18.1 ‘Horrific’ Hillary Clinton Snuff Film Circulating On Dark Web by Baxter Dmitry (April 15, 2018) YourNewsWire (archived from 15 Apr 2018 20:23:59 UTC).
  19. Is a Hillary Clinton ‘Snuff Film’ Circulating on the Dark Web? Conspiracy theory web sites reported that Clinton could be seen mutilating a child during a Satanic ritual in an online video code-named "Frazzledrip." by David Emery (16 April 2018) Snopes.
  20. The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything by Mike Rothschild (2021) Melville House. ISBN 1612199291.
  22. 22.0 22.1
  23. 23.0 23.1 Worst Headache Imaginable by Three (Oct 31, 2007) Erowid.