If The Expanse has taught us anything, it's that life in space is tough. There's water shortages, dissident uprisings and highly infectious alien bacteria. It's no wonder some outer space residents would want a little something to take the edge off.
However, some prefer to use drugs for a different purpose: interrogation. I'm talking about the Martian Navy and those mysterious, clear little pills.
The drug is first seen when Lieutenant Lopez interrogates Holden. After popping the strange little sphere in is mouth, his pupils contract. But what exactly did he take?
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What Is It?
If you've read #TheExpanse novels, then you'll be familiar with the Martians' favorite substance. It's a focus pill, used by the Martian military to give themselves momentary hyperawareness. The Syfy website says that it basically turns the user "into a human lie detector".
So how does it work? Executive producer Mark Fergus explained the effect in an interview with Blastr:
"It heightens the senses to the point of being able to hear your subject’s heart-beat and discern the micro-twitches in their face and eyes, indicating whether they are lying or telling the truth."
The focus pill is administered as a lozenge, and is effective so long as the user sucks on it. While it enhances the senses after ingested, it also has a bonus side effect: intimidating the person being interrogated and basically making them too terrified to even think about lying. Hey, those Martians can be pretty intense.
What Is It Made Of?
Much like the liquid "juice" that gets injected during high-g space travel, the exact components of the drug are never explained. However, there are a few likely possibilities.
The focus pill could be an enhanced version of Adderall, a stimulant that can increase focus and is used to treat ADHD. Or perhaps it's similar to Modafinil— also known as the Limitless drug. In real life, Modafinil doesn't turn users into super humans, but promotes wakefulness, focus and energy levels in those with sleeping disorders.
Another possibility is that the focus pill is a futuristic and highly controllable method of microdosing. The practice of very small amounts of (illegal) psychedelic substances has recently gained popularity amongst certain Silicon Valley figures, who claim the method helps them to focus and even acts as a mild stimulant. Purdue University's professor of pharmacology David Nichols told Wired that microdosing may improve the brain's perception abilities— much like The Expanse's focus drug.
Do you think you'd be able to withstand a Martian interrogation?