How to Extract Adrenochrome from Children
There's a good chance that you haven't heard about this particular conspiracy theory, and if that's the case, you have my eternal envy. Sadly I have heard of it, and so have a lot of other people, many of whom are firm believers. Their notion is that a secret cabal of political opponents of Donald Trump and Hollywood elites torture children and extract a chemical from their bodies, which they then use as a recreational drug. I wish I could report that this is merely the plot of a farcical B movie, but no, sadly, this is something that some intelligent adults actually believe to be true. Today we're going to examine the amazing, outlandish, incredible, and astonishingly freakish adrenochrome conspiracy theory, and try to understand how and why such a belief could possibly arise in the modern world.
It's hard to know where to begin, because everything about the belief is wrong. And not just wrong, but trivially wrong; thirty seconds on Wikipedia is more than enough to prove it. Adrenochrome is not used as a recreational drug, it is not obtained by extraction from human bodies, there's no evidence anyone in Hollywood has tried using it as a recreational drug, and there don't seem to be any children who have had their body chemicals extracted. About the only thing that's true is that adrenochrome is a real chemical. It's the metabolic byproduct of the hormone adrenaline (also called epinephrine), produced as your body uses adrenaline. Presumably this is why the children have to be tortured first: to get their bodies producing adrenaline.
Adrenochrome does have some limited pharmacological use in a few countries. It is easily synthesized, widely available, and inexpensive — no need to harvest it from children or anyone else. Its value as a recreational drug is debatable at best; in the United States, it's not even listed as a controlled substance. Some research done in the 1950s hypothesized that schizophrenia might be associated with high levels of adrenochrome, and a few authors heard about this and decided to use it in their books — but only after adding the fictional element of psychedelics. There it languished, known only to a few literary savants, until it hit the big time in Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Taking full literary license, Thompson decided to go all-out and depict adrenochrome as some kind of wild psychedelic drug. One of his characters says "That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You'll go completely crazy if you take too much." In the 1998 movie adaptation, actor Johnny Depp brought its imaginary effects to life on the big screen. Director Terry Gilliam says that Thompson told him he completely made up the psychedelic effects of adrenochrome. But since fiction spreads so much faster than fact, ever since the movie came out, people have wrongly believed that adrenochrome is a recreational drug.
In 2020, one believer gave her version on the TV show Dr. Phil:
It turns out that adrenochrome is tightly linked with another growing conspiracy theory. A few months ago we covered the QAnon conspiracy theory right here on Skeptoid. This belief holds that there is a highly placed operative within the presidential administration of Donald Trump using the moniker "Q", who leaks information to the world about how Trump is battling a secret shadow government called the "deep state" consisting of prominent Democrats, billionaires, and other elites who engage in Satan worship and pedophilia, all of whom will soon be arrested in a massive sweep called "The Storm". As the venue from which to make these grave and consequential revelations to the world, Trump's administration chooses 8kun, a fringe Internet imageboard best known for pornography, racism, and assorted illegal content. This is the logical choice, according to QAnon believers.
There's a good reason why the adrenochrome and QAnon conspiracy theories are linked. In his 2018 book Escaping the Rabbit Hole, author Mick West discusses the spectrum on which conspiracy theories lie. Some of them lie at the "more plausible" end of the spectrum, such as the idea of corruption and kickbacks within Big Pharma, that many people can embrace. At the opposite end are wild claims that we imagine no reasonable person could possibly take seriously, such as the idea of world leaders actually being reptilian aliens wearing electronic disguises. And yet, there are people who do believe that. Each of us has their own line of demarcation that we draw somewhere along the spectrum, and we tend to be more readily accepting of all conspiracy theories that are to the "more plausible" side of that line.
Thus, if a person is willing to believe something as outlandish as the QAnon conspiracy theory — if they draw their line of demarcation that far out at the extreme gibberish end of the spectrum — then it shouldn't be surprising that they'd find the adrenochrome conspiracy to be perfectly sensible. Believers in the adrenochrome conspiracy are, in fact, already pre-qualified by their belief in QAnon, as they are already persuaded that atrocities against children are a routine component of the political left. If you believe in QAnon, then there's nothing outrageous about adrenochrome.
The conspiracies also have the same roots. They both grew out of anti-Semitic threads on the 4chan online community, which is where Q originated. 4chan was also the birthplace of the Pizzagate mythology, in which Democrats and Hollywood elites were said to operate pedophilia and child trafficking rings from the non-existent basement of a pizza parlor. So far as I could find, the very first adrenochrome post on 4chan was a video (no longer available) titled "Jew Ritual BLOOD LIBEL Sacrifice is #ADRENOCHROME Harvesting". The term blood libel refers to centuries of false accusations against Jews, alleging that they habitually murder Christian children to use their blood in various rituals.
After some five years of moldering in the dark corners of anti-Semitic message boards, in 2019 adrenochrome was finally picked up by InfoWars, that Holy of Holies of alt-right conspiracy mongering. The InfoWars reporter linked EpiPens (emergency injectors containing epinephrine) to the Clinton Foundation (elite Democrats) to a company that was selling transfusions of blood donated by young people as some sort of miracle health scheme:
InfoWars hoped that you would take this connection — so thin they didn't even directly state it — as proof that Democrats and Hollywood elitists were torturing children to drink their blood and get their adrenochrome. The scary thing is it worked; plenty of alt-right conspiracy theorists now fully accept this. Once adrenochrome received InfoWars' stamp of approval, YouTube became a fertile paradise for QAnon believers to freely promote and build on the narrative. One of the most prolific full-spectrum conspiracy theorists, Liz Crokin, posted the following in March 2020 as the coronavirus was just starting its rampage through the United States:
Considering that it's so easy to learn that adrenochrome has no value as a recreational drug, and that nobody takes it for that, and that it's both commercially available and relatively inexpensive, we're forced to wonder whether the believers make any effort at all to verify their facts before simply accepting them and trumpeting them to the world in YouTube videos. It's even easy enough to find out Crokin's theory that "elites" got the coronavirus from taking a tainted drug is extremely improbable, from all we know about the ways SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted.
As with most conspiracy theories, facts have never had anything to do with it. Adrenochrome and its sibling QAnon certainly aren't about facts; they're about class warfare. This couldn't be signaled any more strongly than in their use of terminology like the elites. The conspiracy theories combine to paint the narrative sought by those who feel themselves marginalized by those who are wealthier, better educated, or more successful than themselves. So they embrace conspiracy theories that cast those elites as villains for whom punishment is imminent.
Adrenochrome supplies the crime, and QAnon supplies the punishment. The elites are torturing and murdering children and harvesting their bodily fluids for no other reason than to get a cheap high, and the QAnon army of alt-right militia will arrest and indict them in "The Storm". It all fits together. For the most part, the theater in which this class war is being waged is confined to the fantasy lands of YouTube and Internet imageboards. But not entirely, as the news is all-too-often peppered with isolated real world acts of violence between the alt-right QAnon believers and their alt-left mirrors.
And thus we find ourselves gifted with yet another lesson in the importance of critical thinking. That grandma thinks her poodle is psychic may seem harmless, but it's the same pattern of thought that leads her to make other worse decisions, potentially including medical choices. By the same token it's easy to look at belief systems as patently ludicrous as QAnon or adrenochrome and think they, too, are silly enough that they should be dismissed and ignored. Not true. Reason and rationality have never been more important than they are today.
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