The Ukrainian and Russian flags are placed on a map of Europe

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No, Russia didn’t just crush Ukraine’s ‘Adrenochrome cartel’


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Oct 31, 2023   Updated on Nov 1, 2023, 7:24 am CDT

In each edition of web_crawlr we have exclusive original content every day. On Mondays our Tech Reporter Mikael Thalen debunks the most wild conspiracy theories swirling around the web in his “One Dumb Conspiracy” column. If you want to read columns like this before everyone else, subscribe to web_crawlr to get your daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

A conspiracy theory tearing through social media claims that Special Forces soldiers in Russia just crushed an “Adrenochrome cartel” in Ukraine. And as you guessed, it’s all nonsense.

For those who don’t remember, Adrenochrome is the substance that conspiracy theorists falsely believe is harvested and consumed by the world’s elite from the adrenal glands of children.

It has its roots, among other things, in the Johnny Depp movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Despite claims from conspiracy theorists that the substance causes hallucinations, it is not in any way a hallucinogenic or intoxicating substance.

Still, the Adrenochrome nonsense persists. And while it has died down, it has managed to rear its head once again. On X, users have been sharing an article with the headline “Special Forces-Spetznas Team Crushes Adrenochrome Cartel in Ukraine.”

“When the dark reality of adrenochrome finally hit me, it took me 2 weeks to emotionally process that truth,” one user wrote while sharing the article. “And I think we are finally shutting it down.  The Spetznas and Special Forces (yes: Russians + Americans!).”

But the claim that Ukraine is running some sort of Adrenochrome cartel is just as baseless as the American-made conspiracy theory that biological weapons labs are located in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly amplified these far-right, American conspiracy theories critical of Ukraine.

Incredibly, the story even claims that “three dozen medical-grade refrigerators, often used to chill Adrenochrome, and 6,000 grams of fentanyl, one of several synthetic opioids common in Adrenochrome formulations,” were found during a raid in Ukraine.

Yet the site that reported the so-called news, known as Real Raw News, is a certified fake news website that even admits to spreading satire on its About page.

Despite the site being debunked on a daily basis, its ability to craft narratives that excite conspiracy theorists has allowed it to flourish for years under numerous names.

So, if your uncle from Facebook ever cites Real Raw News, you might want to let him know. In reality, Adrenochrome is a QAnon-based fantasy

Why it matters

The Adrenochrome theory, while easily debunked, remains ever-popular among the far-right. Since the beginning of the Donald Trump era, conspiracy theories that once were relegated to the darkest corners of the internet are now believed by mainstream conservatives.

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*First Published: Oct 31, 2023, 6:00 am CDT