Adrenochrome is a key substance in a subplot of a popular conspiracy theory spread by the QAnon movement. According to its supporters, it is supposed to be taken by Hollywood celebrities and liberal politicians due to its alleged psychedelic and rejuvenating properties. For this purpose, the substance is to be obtained from the bodies of children subjected to torture. This narrative ties in closely with the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which states that members of Washington’s political elite are part of a child sex trafficking criminal group. In fact, both of these narratives draw on the old anti-Semitic myth of ritual murders to obtain the blood of Christian children for matzos.
What actually is adrenochrome?
Adrenochrome (C9H9NO3) is an oxidation product of adrenaline (C9H13NO3) and is successfully synthesised in the laboratory. As a result of the reaction, colourless adrenaline gives a product with a pink-orange colour, hence it is commonly called pink adrenaline.
Adrenochrome is not included in the Polish list of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (list N and list P), new psychoactive substances or even in the list of very potent substances (list A) or strong substances (list B). In the United States, it is not on the list of controlled substances or regulated substances. The National Institute of Health (NIH) on the PubChem website refers users to official suppliers that offer adrenochrome.
The French branch of the AFP points out that the Erowid, which is a kind of participatory encyclopaedia of psychotropic substances, lists only a few testimonies of people who have tried adrenochrome intoxication. A user named Genaro reported that the effects were very light, short-lived and uninteresting. Three, on the other hand, complained of heart palpitations, profuse sweating, and the worst headache imaginable. Both claimed that the substance did not cause them to experience any hallucinations. However, the latter did not take purified adrenochrome, but adrenaline, which turned pink. Therefore, apart from adrenochrome, the syringe probably also contained other derivatives of adrenaline.
Adrenochrome was of interest to scientists in the 1950s, who saw it as a possible cause of schizophrenia. Endocrinologist Dr. Steven Mittelman told Lead Stories that although there are publications linking adrenochrome to schizophrenia, their methodology has been questioned and such link has been finally ruled out. Mittelman emphasises, however, that studies indicate a cardiotoxic effect in the form of a reduction in the ability of the heart muscle to contract, which means that the substance could only be used in people with haemophilia, because in other people there would be a deadly threat in the form of blood clots.
Due to its colour, adrenochrome is used in the production of diagnostic tests. In scientific research, it is mainly used when assessing the activity of enzymes, most often superoxide dismutase (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), but also NADPH oxidase (1). Due to the limited use of adrenochrome and its relatively low importance, scientists and journalists do not write much about it. This creates a vacuum in the information space. As a result of the scarcity of reliable data from reliable local sources, search engine algorithms promote what is available but not necessarily trustworthy. This creates the perfect environment for adrenochrome conspiracy theories to flourish, giving them viral reach.
In 2017, an anonymous figure claiming to be Q emerged on the 4chan message board. The mysterious Q was implying to have access to classified information. His supporters believed that he was a government official close to Donald Trump. His numerous posts, known as Q drops, were supposed to contain encrypted information revealing Trump’s secret actions aimed at dismantling a global conspiracy involving “state-in-state” actors (also known as “deep state”).
QAnon evolved from Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory popular during the 2016 presidential campaign. At that time, the American right wing promoted a narrative about a paedophile network dealing with child trafficking, which was supposed to be linked to the Washington political elite. Information about it was supposed to be encoded in the e-mails of John Podesta (chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign) disclosed by WikiLeaks, including through references to food and a popular Washington pizzeria.
This narrative has seriously impacted the Comet Ping Pong restaurant and its neighbouring businesses. Employees of the restaurant were harassed, and a culmination of this was a shooting in December 2016. An armed man who broke into a pizzeria believed it was holding kidnapped children who needed his help.
The identity of Q
Q’s identity has been the subject of much speculation, with names like Paul Furber and Jim and Ron Watkins being the most frequently mentioned. In 2021, HBO released Cullen Hoback’s documentary Q: Into the Storm, which was a record of a journalistic investigation into the origins of QAnon. In the final episode, during an interview, Ron Watkins utters what Hoback believes to be an inadvertent admission to being Q. You can view the clip in question in the tweet below.
The New York Times reported in 2022 about an analysis of Q’s posts conducted by two teams of linguists. It showed that Paul Furber was the primary author of the first Q posts, with Ron Watkins taking control of them in 2018.
Adrenochrome according to QAnon
A side plot of QAnon story is the production of adrenochrome from children, whose blood is to serve as a strong drug and at the same time an elixir of youth. Sometimes this theme is also associated with the belief in reptilians who are supposed to take part in satanic rituals involving the use of adrenochrome.
Proponents of this theory are also using it to attack Planned Parenthood, which they say sells organs of aborted children. In this narrative, the organs are to be used to produce adrenochrome.
As is typical of conspiracy theories, this narrative is self-contradictory, since its proponents simultaneously claim that adrenochrome’s narcotic and rejuvenating properties only occur if it is taken from a living person. According to QAnon, the quality of adrenochrome decreases with age, so it is best obtained from children under the age of 9 (or in other versions of 12). Since adrenochrome is an oxidation product of adrenaline, these children are to be tortured beforehand to release the hormone.
Pineal gland or adrenal glands?
There is no consensus among QAnon supporters as to where in the body it is produced. Some believe that it is secreted by the pineal gland located in the brain and responsible for the production of melatonin (1, 2, 3), while others believe that adrenochrome is produced in the adrenal gland, a gland located on the top of both kidneys that secretes adrenaline (1, 2). There are also those who exchange both these organs alternately.
In extreme cases, however, we can meet with the absurd statement that adrenochrome “is produced in the adrenal gland, meaning your head needs to be hacked apart in order to harvest it”. No less irrational statements can be found on the profile of a person claiming to be a dietitian. In her post she states that adrenochrome is produced by “adrenal oxidation”, but later we read that a needle is inserted into the eye of children to secrete adrenaline, which is taken from the pineal gland.
Among the people mentioned as the main villains in this story, there are most often political opponents of Donald Trump, such as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama or the aforementioned John Podesta. It would also not have been possible without the participation of George Soros and Bill Gates. Stars such as Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres and Serbian artist and performer Marina Abramović, and even Pope Francis are also to be involved in satanic rituals.
One of the more extreme conspiracy theories is the one called “frazzledrip“. It is based on a video circulating online purporting to show Hillary Clinton and her vice-president of the campaign, Huma Abedin, torturing and murdering a young girl. Then they were to wear the child’s face like a mask. These allegations were denied by the fact-checking website Snopes.
There is also a popular photo in which Lady Gaga and Marina Abramović are said to be taking part in a Satanic ritual. In fact, it presents an artistic performance that took place in 2013 during the Watermill Center Summer Benefit.
As is typical of conspiracy thinking, we will find many examples of reinterpretation of randomness in this narrative. This is perfectly illustrated by the plot linking the death of Prince Phillip with the blocking of the Suez Canal. This event was supposed to stop the supply of adrenochrome, which would eventually lead to the death of the monarch.
Black Eye Club
One of the initiation rites that is supposed to be associated with taking adrenochrome is to appear in public with a hematoma under the left eye. The black eye is supposed to be the result of adrenochrome deposition in this place, which is a symptom of its consumption or in other versions of overdose. Once a black eye is publicly noticed, a person can join the Black Eye Club.
Adrenochrome withdrawal symptoms
Withdrawal of adrenochrome is said to result in psychosis, severe damage to both physical and mental health, and accelerated aging. The latter symptom is often used as evidence of a celebrity or politician’s involvement in a global conspiracy. In this context, QAnon supporters juxtapose the best and worst photos of famous people. An example of such action is a popular illustration in these circles showing Courteney Cox’s “withdrawal symptom”, which was actually caused by an aging filter in the FaceApp the actress played with back in 2019. It was compared to a photo of her appearance on Busy Tonight in the same year.
According to numerous posts, the production, consumption and sale of adrenochrome is said to be “Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret”. At the same time, in 2021, the conspiracy portal Odkrywamy Zakryte wrote about secret prisons where children are to be held and murdered in order to obtain the substance. Documents revealing their location were to be accidentally sent to a customer from Germany when he ordered a flash drive through Amazon. In turn, Krzysztof “Ator” Woźniak argues that information on the production of the substance and its price can be easily checked by entering “adrenochrome” in the Google search engine, as they appear already on the first page of results.
According to QAnon, adrenochrome is unbelievably expensive. Some even call it “the most expensive drug in Hollywood”. Its purchase is also supposed to be difficult, and the circulating legend says that it could once be purchased with cryptocurrencies on the now-defunct Adrenochrome.net website.
In fact, for many years the most expensive drug in the world was Zolgensma used to treat spinal muscular atrophy. The retail price of one package reached 2.1 million USD. In 2022, however, it was dethroned by Hemgenix – a drug intended for patients with haemophilia type B, the price of which is 3.5 million USD per dose. Compared to the drugs mentioned above, the prices of adrenochrome are not impressive. One of the most popular suppliers of laboratory reagents, Sigma-Aldrich, offers the purchase of 25 mg of the substance for 682 PLN (ca. 166 USD), while 10 times more volume can be purchased for 3,660 PLN (ca. 890 USD).
Supporters of QAnon, however, respond that these prices apply to a compound obtained synthetically, which does not have the appropriate properties. Some people, in order to authenticate their narrative, refer to the websites of companies offering laboratory supplies, describing them as “stores that sell adrenochrome”.
Relationships of famous politicians with adrenochrome producers
In 2019, the InfoWars conspiracy website linked adrenochrome to the Clinton Foundation through the manufacturer of EpiPen (adrenaline injections) and a controversial company that offered transfusions of blood donated by young people. Although this connection was very far-fetched, it was not a problem for the supporters of this narrative.
Things were completely different when QAnon supporters started sharing documents about The CYM Caring Corp. They supposedly showed that it was responsible for the production of adrenochrome obtained from children. The situation got complicated when it was noticed that the company’s headquarters visible on the letterhead is located in a skyscraper belonging to Donald Trump. Conspiracy theorists then concluded that the registration of the company at this address was a deliberate attempt to slander the president.
The dynamics of the adrenochrome narrative
The popularity of this narrative peaked in April 2020. Most likely due to the way social media works (e.g., memories on Facebook), this phrase reappears on the anniversary of its greatest popularity, as shown in the example below.
The post suggests that the package contains human organs taken from children. It is worth noting that the word kid, shown in the picture below, has several meanings in English. Used in a noun, depending on the context, it can mean both a child and a young goat. This photo appeared on Twitter in April 2020. The account that posted it has been suspended.
This narrative is popular in the information bubble of conspiracy theorists. Sometimes, however, it breaks through – as in the case of the popular American talk show Dr. Phil. In the episode aired in September 2020, the guest invited to the studio was a woman who believes her missing daughter was kidnapped and tortured for adrenochrome (snippets of the show can be viewed on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4). The host also talks to the woman’s other daughter, who tells how her mother’s belief in this narrative affected her family.
The adrenochrome conspiracy theory evolves with current world events. In 2020, QAnon supporters claimed the substance was manufactured in Wuhan. There, vials of adrenochrome were to be infected with the “COVID virus”, which was intended to expose members of the elite engaged in “crimes against humanity”. In other versions, the vials were contaminated with “COVID-19 HIV“, whatever that means. At this point, it is worth noting that people publishing these narratives incorrectly use the term COVID-19 most likely in relation to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
One of the first known people to contract COVID-19 was actor Tom Hanks. According to QAnon, his illness was evidence of taking contaminated adrenochrome. As a result of the infection of many representatives of the elite, the production of the substance was to be stopped, which in turn was to cause strong withdrawal symptoms of the members of the global conspiracy. The increase in interest in adrenochrome in April 2020 was most likely the result of photos published by celebrities during lockdowns. Their natural, makeup-free appearance was portrayed as adrenochrome withdrawal syndrome.
War in Ukraine
After the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there were numerous threads presenting the actions of Russian troops as an attempt to overthrow a global conspiracy or the Great Reset. In October 2022, a narrative about rescued tens of thousands of “tortured and murdered” children was shared on Telegram. They were to be kept in cages in a biological laboratory. The tunnel in which the laboratory was located was supposed to run under a Ukrainian property owned by Biden. The author of this narrative claims that there are videos of Russian soldiers walking dirty children, cradling in their hands new teddy bears given to them by the Russian army.
In January 2023, the Real Raw News blog run by Michael Baxter spread the narrative about the liquidation of another laboratory in Shostka, Ukraine. According to Baxter, 50 children kidnapped from towns on the Russian-Ukrainian border were rescued as a result of Spetsnaz operations. During the operation, 8 laboratory workers were allegedly shot, including an American and a British. A similar event was to take place shortly later in the town of Khmelnytskyi. According to Real Raw News, transports with adrenochrome produced in Ukraine were to be delivered to Warsaw by land, and then by plane to the American airbase in Dover.
Baxter, who had already published dozens of posts about adrenochrome, at the urging of legal counsel, posted a disclaimer that the site contains humour, parody and satire, and that the information is informative, educational and entertaining. Nevertheless, his reports were picked up by other portals, vloggers and users. This narrative was also shared on Polish-language Telegram channels (1, 2).
Adrenochrome and ritual murders
The adrenochrome conspiracy theory draws from the old anti-Semitic myth of killing Christian children to obtain blood for matzos. Those spreading this theory are alluding directly to ritual murders, using the same images that were used to antagonise against the Jewish community in the 15th century and in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
For example, the graphic below is captioned with the words: “Nothing has changed, adrenochrome addiction etched in stone.” The sculpture visible in the photo is a medallion placed on the facade of Palazzo Salvadori in Trento. It was created in the 18th century by Francesco Oradini and depicts the Martyrdom of Saint Simon of Trent (Simon of Trent).
An almost 3-year-old child, whose dead body was found before Easter 1475, became the cause of the persecution of Jews, leading to executions, confiscation of property, and expulsion from the city. The fear of the Catholics against the Jews was then fuelled by Catholic priests from the altars. A rumour was already circulating in Europe at that time that the Jews, as part of their Easter rituals, were to kidnap Christian children and torture them in order to use their blood to make dough for Christmas bread.
It was also believed that the blood of Christian children was used for medical reasons – to remove the horns with which Jews were to be born. The aetiology of this myth was explained in 2015 by Michał Hankus. In a text entitled Trwałość przesądu – problem ikonografii Szymona z Trydentu i jej wpływ na inne kulty „świętych niewiniątek” (Persistence of superstition – the problem of the iconography of Simon of Trent and its influence on other cults of “holy innocents”), we can read:
Belief in ritual murders, as well as a kind of “collection” of crimes attributed to the Jewish community, led to numerous riots, and the new blessed and saints – victims of alleged bloody rites – influenced the imagination of the Catholics, creating the conviction of a devilish conspiracy of Jews against Christians.
The legend of the ritual murder of Simon of Trent, despite the removal of the “blessed” from the liturgical calendar during the Second Vatican Council in 1965, is still alive. We can read about it on the websites of Magna Polonia, Legion Św. Ekspedyta or Pius X.
Another image, described as Historical symbolic representation of adrenochrome consumption, shows a ritual murder and was published in the German press in the 1930s.
Adrenochrome with a pop culture twist
The theme of adrenochrome appears in Aldous Huxley’s 1954 The Doors of Perception and Anthony Burgess’s 1962 A Clockwork Orange. However, the myth surrounding this substance was introduced into the public consciousness by the film Las Vegas Parano, based on Hunter Thompson’s 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
In one scene, Raoul Duke – the main character played by Johnny Depp – looking at a brown bottle, asks his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) about its contents. He replies that it contains adrenochrome, which “makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer.” In the book, Gonzo is said to add that “there’s only one source for this stuff – the adrenal glands of a living human body” and that it sucks when you get it from a corpse. Hunter’s book is written in Gonzo style of writing. The features of this type of reportage include: subjectivity, mixing facts and fiction, hyperbole and/or fantasy, and conspiratorial tone.
In the 21st century, the topic of adrenochrome was so popular that it appeared as the main theme of songs, such as Adrenochrome Orgy by the German death metal band Kadaverficker, or movies, such as Adrenochrome from 2017.
In 2019 , the FBI assessed the QAnon conspiracy theories as a potential domestic terrorist threat. The report lists a number of arrests related to violent incidents motivated by extreme beliefs. The Guardian wrote about crimes from 2020 motivated by narratives spread by QAnon. On 6 January, 2021, supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol. Many of them were QAnon supporters who saw Trump as a hero destined to save the world.
A week before the attack on the Capitol, Ipsos published a study showing that as many as 17% of Americans believed that “a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.” 12 months later, that number was 7%.
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