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Ketracel-white (or simply white) was an addictive narcotic containing an isogenic enzyme and nutrients. One of the active ingredients of white is yridium bicantizine. The Jem'Hadar soldiers of the Dominion were genetically engineered to lack the enzyme which white provides, and required frequent doses of the drug to survive. The white also provided all the nutrients they required, alleviating them of the need to eat or drink.
Without white, Jem'Hadar soldiers suffered withdrawal symptoms including pain, anxiety, loss of mental control, and inability to "shroud"; eventually the Jem'Hadar spiral into homicidal insanity. First killing their enemies followed by their allies, they would inevitably turn on each other. Ultimately, their entire genetic structure would collapse. (DS9: "Rocks and Shoals") On rare occasions, a Jem'Hadar was born with a genetic mutation which allowed their bodies to produce the white they needed, though most such instances went unnoticed. (DS9: "Hippocratic Oath") All attempts to remove this genetically engineered addiction have thus far failed.
The addiction to white ensured the Jem'Hadars' loyalty to the Founders. However, for most Jem'Hadar this was unnecessary, as their loyalty was already absolute. Distribution of the white was controlled by the Vorta, and was dispensed to the Jem'Hadar First in a formal ceremony:
- Vorta: "First [name], can you vouch for the loyalty of your men?"
- Jem'Hadar: "We pledge our loyalty to the Founders, from now until death."
- Vorta: "Then receive this reward from the Founders, may it keep you strong."
Jem'Hadar bred in the Alpha Quadrant occasionally dispensed with the formal ceremony claiming that their loyalty was shown by their actions rather than their words. (DS9: "One Little Ship"). In the event of the death of the Vorta or the detachment of a group of Jem'Hadar from their main unit, the Jem'Hadar First can unlock the white case. (DS9: "Rocks and Shoals", "One Little Ship", "To the Death")
Early in the Dominion War, the Dominion in the Alpha Quadrant suffered from a white shortage because the minefield prevented supplies from the Gamma Quadrant, and because it was not easy to set on new production lines. The Cardassians proposed to exterminate some or all Jem'Hadar by poisoning the last white supplies. Later, the Son'a used their facilities on Devos II to produce large quantities of ketracel-white. (DS9: "Penumbra", Star Trek: Insurrection)