Deadly Doses: Death by Poisons

canstockphoto16043224“Poison has a certain appeal… it has not the crudeness of the revolver bullet or the blunt instrument.”
— Agatha Christie’s ‘They Do It With Mirrors

From ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ to over 30 Agatha Christie novels, poison has been the weapon of choice in countless murder mysteries. Untraceable, fast acting, silent killers have challenged Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Jessica Fletcher alike. So, if you’re considering a poison as your Murderer’s weapon of choice, here’s a list to get you started.

Arsenic – This is the Granddaddy Classic of all the poisons. As a grey powder that can be sprinkled into food, arsenic poisoning can create a slow, lingering death. Symptoms begin with headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea, and drowsiness. As the poisoning develops, convulsions and changes in fingernail pigmentation may occur. When the poisoning becomes acute, symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and more convulsions. The organs of the body that are usually affected by arsenic poisoning are the lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver. The final result of arsenic poisoning is coma and death.

Belladonna (aka Deadly Nightshade) one of the most wicked plants on earth, it grows in the Eastern Hemisphere. The consumption of just a few of berries, which look like blueberries, or a single leaf can be lethal. The roots are even more toxic. Symptoms include sensitivity to light, blurred vision, loss of balance, headache, slurred speech, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions and finally death.

Botulinum Toxin – Botox poisoning can have the adverse effect of spreading to other parts of the body, which could cause muscle weakness, swallowing difficulties, pneumonia, speech disorders and breathing problems. Individuals who are pregnant, have egg allergies or a neuromuscular disorder are advised to avoid Botox.

Cyanide – it can be inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Cyanide is most harmful if you are exposed in an enclosed space, such as a building. Gas may be created as a chemical reaction when a building is on fire. Food grown in soil or water containing cyanide may also contain it. Symptoms may begin sooner and be more severe if you breathe cyanide and include itchy or burning eyes, nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, and a slowwing heartbeat

Dimethylmercury – This colorless liquid is one of the strongest known neuro-toxins. It is described as having a slightly sweet smell and a mere droplet can raise a person’s blood mercury level to 80 times the toxic threshold. Symptoms to an isolated exposure develop gradually. The victim suffers brief occurrences of abdominal discomfort along with significant weight loss as he or she grows sicker.

Indian Aconite – its roots are among the oldest known poisons in the world, dating back to ancient Chinese and Indian concoctions from the 12th century B.C. Because of this history, it’s been labeled the “Queen Mother of Poisons.” Symptoms develop quickly, usually within 10 to 20 minutes, and include loss of vision, weakness in the limbs, and paralysis. The victim dies of cardiac arrest shortly after.

Methylmercury – a toxin that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Symptoms include impairment of the peripheral vision, “pins and needles” sensation in the hands, feet, and around the mouth, impairment of speech, hearing, walking, and muscle weakness.

Poison Hemlock – (aka Conium) the ingestion of seemingly small doses of this plant results in ascending muscular paralysis, with eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Death results from the lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. Interestingly enough, death can be prevented by artificial ventilation until the effects have worn off 48–72 hours later.

Polonium– (aka “The Perfect Poison”) a highly radioactive element found in uranium ore. A speck of polonium the size of the dot at the end of this sentence contains about 3,400 times the lethal dose for humans. If ingested, even in the tiniest quantity, it will so badly damage internal organs that they shut down and death is imminent. This is not just an immensely powerful, efficient and fast acting poison, its presence in the body is also very hard for doctors to identify.

Strychnine – an odorless, colorless crystalline powder can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through eyes or mouth. It produces some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms of any known toxic reaction: The victim experiences facial muscle spasms, where the eyebrows elevate, and the mouth sets in an open, sustained grin. In the throws of death, a severe contraction of the paraspinal muscles cause an arching posture of the neck and back.

Tetrodotoxin – an extremely potent poison found mainly in puffer fish, globefish, and toadfish, and in some amphibians, octopus, and shellfish species. Symptoms include a prickling and tingling sensation of the lips and tongue, followed by facial and extremity numbness. The victim will feel sensations of lightness or floating as paralysis sets in, first in the extremities, then in the rest of the body, and finally in the respiratory muscles. Death occurs within the first 4 to 8 hours.

Thallium – a soft, malleable gray metal that will forever be associated with rat poison. It’s particularly dangerous because, in addition to being highly soluble in water and being tasteless if ingested, it is easily and simply absorbed through the skin with the slightest contact.

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  1. Pingback: Index of A to Z Blog Challenge Articles – April 2014 | JC Gatlin - Author

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