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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 5:04 EDT

Expert Warns Of Mind-Altering Biological Drugs In Warfare

August 19, 2009

A chemical and biological weapons expert on Wednesday called for military groups to cease use of mind-altering drugs in battle.

Writing in the journal Nature, Malcolm Dando, Professor of International Security at Britain’s Bradford University, said: “In the past 20 years, modern warfare has changed from predominantly large-scale clashes of armies to messy civil strife.”

He pointed to the misuse of chemicals and gene therapies being developed for medical purposes in modern warfare.

These methods “are particularly suited to this style of warfare; it is not hard to find people in the military world who think they would be useful,” said Dando, a regular participant in U.N.-sponsored arms conferences.

According to Reuters, Dando is seeking to redraft the 1993 global Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took effect in 1997. Overall, 188 countries have signed on to the CWC, which bans the use of all chemical weapons apart from those intended for riot control by law enforcement.

“The CWC urgently needs modifying if it is to continue to help ensure that the modern life sciences are not used for hostile purposes,” Dando wrote in the journal.

“‘Law enforcement’ could be taken by some to cover more than domestic riot control, which in certain circumstances would make it legal for the military to use agents such as fentanyl.”

Fentanyl is an anesthetic used for sedation in reducing pain from medical complications such as cancer. It was used by Russian special forces in 2002 to subdue Chechen militants who had seized a Moscow theater, according to Reuters.

The Russians’ use of the powerful painkiller accounted for 120 hostage deaths.

Dando also said that drugs like oxytocin “opens up the possibility of a drug that could be used to manipulate people’s emotions in a military context.”

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