Special Sub-Topic: The Poisoner's Handbook
|I am sure that the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates could tell you about the lethal affects of which of the following options?|
Hemlock. After being charged with impiety and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens, Socrates took his own life using hemlock. This poisonous plant is also known as conium and contains the neurotoxin coniine. When consumed, this poison will cause ascending muscular paralysis, eventually causing paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Death is caused by lack of oxygen to the body. If ingested by a human, the treatment consists of artificial ventilation while the poisonous effects wear off, which is approximately 2-3 days later. The ingestion of more than 100 mg of coniine is usually fatal.
|The incredibly lethal poison known as ricin is made from which of the following?|
Castor beans. Ricin is a particularly toxic substance which can be administered by inhalation or injection. Oral ingestion is much less toxic as the damage is kept within the gastrointestinal tract. The fatal dose of ricin can be as small as a grain of salt. Ricin is 500 times stronger than cobra venom and 1,500 times more deadly than cyanide. Symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal pain and seizures. The poison inhibits protein synthesis and affects the liver, pulmonary, renal and immune systems. Death follows within 3-5 days of exposure. There is no known antidote or vaccine. This toxin was used in the murder of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov when a pellet containing ricin was fired into his leg with a weapon disguised as an umbrella.
|Foxglove is a group of plants that can be very toxic if consumed, but are also used to make which medicinal drug?|
Digitalis. There are about 20 species of Foxglove, all which look similar in appearance. They all have clusters of long bell-shaped flowers on a long stalk which are usually pink, purple, white or yellow in color. The plant is native to areas in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is used to make the cardiac medication known as digitalis and when used in this capacity has saved thousands of lives. Each species has steroidal glycosides which can be physiologically toxic and leads to many of its nicknames such as "Dead Man's Bell" and "Witches Gloves". The entire plant is toxic and just a small amount can be fatal. Symptoms of ingestion include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, abdominal pains and hallucination. Later symptoms include slow and irregular pulse, tremors, convulsions,and vision disturbances. Most poisonings from this plant are accidental, but in 1999 six members of a Romany clan were put on trial for a crime that came to be known as "The Foxglove Murders". It has also been speculated in some circles that foxglove and/or digitalis was used to murder Pope John Paul I in 1978.
|Tetrodotoxin is a very lethal compound contained in which of the following?|
Puffer Fish. In Japan, puffer fish is known as fugu and is considered a delicacy. If not prepared properly, tetrodotoxin poisoning occurs. This substance is a sodium channel blocker that causes muscle paralysis. Cooking does not affect this toxin. The victim stays fully conscious while he slowly suffocates to death. There is no known antidote. Because of the toxicity of this fish, fugu is the only meal that the Japanese Emperor is not allowed to eat.
|Saddam Hussein, the fifth president of Iraq, liked to poison dissidents with thallium before allowing them to emigrate.|
True. One of the most distinctive symptoms of thallium poisoning is the loss of hair. At one time it was used as a depilatory before its true toxicity was known. Nervous system damage may cause the soles of the feet to burn and the patient to lose control of the limbs. Vomiting, delirium, blindness, seizures and death can occur. Thallium can be absorbed through the skin, ingested through poisoned food or inhaled. Hussein liked to use this poison because of the length of time it takes to kill. Emigrants were out of the country before they fell ill with mysterious symptoms that usually led to their deaths. Thallium has been used in numerous well-publicised murders since it was discovered in 1861.
|What is the alternate name for the poison often called deadly nightshade?|
Belladonna. Belladonna, also known as "Devil's Berries", is a herbaceous plant found in Mediterranean areas. Throughout history it has been used as a medication, a cosmetic, and a poison. Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants on the planet. It produces sweet berries which are poisonous, as are all parts of the plant. It only takes 2-5 berries to kill a child and 10-20 to kill an adult. Ingestion of one leaf is usually fatal. Symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, tachycardia, headache, hallucinations, and convulsions. This poison is a neurotoxin that disrupts the nervous systems ability to control both voluntary and involuntary activities. It should be noted that for centuries this plant was used as a cosmetic. Eye drops prepared from the plant were used by women to dilate their pupils, which was considered attractive. Prolonged usage caused blindness, heart arrhythmia and even death.
|During the Holocaust, which of the following options was used by Nazi Germany to kill thousands of prisoners in gas chambers?|
Zyklon B. Zyklon B is a cyanide-based poisonous gas used to murder thousands and possibly millions of people in the German extermination camps of World War II. Originally produced as a pesticide, it originally contained a warning odorant which was not added at the camps. This poison affects cellular respiration, causing internal asphyxiation combined with dizziness and vomiting. When heated to slightly above room temperature, the tablets release cyanide gas and can kill a large number of people in a relatively short time.
|On January 31, 2000 a British court found Dr. Harold Shipman guilty of the murder of 15 patients by poisoning them with which of the following?|
Diamorphine. Dr. Harold Shipman was found guilty of 15 murders but has been rumored to have caused the deaths of over 200 of his patients. His poison of choice was diamorphine, which is known on the streets as heroin. Diamorphine is considered an opioid analgesic and was once commonly used for the treatment of chronic pain. It can be administered by injection, inhalation, or in tablets. Diamorphine poisoning causes confusion, hypotension, bradycardia, dizziness, hallucinations and convulsions. Death usually occurs within a few hours of administration and is usually caused by renal failure, asphyxiation, or continuous convulsions. This substance is synthesized from the infamous opium poppy.
|What kind of toxin is strychnine?|
Neurotoxin. At the start of the 20th century, strychnine was one of the most commonly used substances for deliberate poisonings. Strychnine is a neurotoxin that attacks the central nervous system causing the victim to thrash and contort wildly. Continuous convulsions follow, with a lowering of the blood pressure and slowing of the heart beat. Death is caused by asphyxiation due to paralysis of the nerves that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the continuous convulsions. Death usually occurs within 2-3 hours after exposure. There is no antidote for strychnine but mild cases can be saved with the use of anti-convulsants and activated charcoal which is used to absorb any poison still left in the digestive tract. Strychnine is a colorless alkaloid found in the seeds of the Strychnos nux vomica tree. It was originally used as a pesticide aimed at small birds and rodents. Just so you know, the other three options are not real.
|The 19th century murderer Dr. H.H. Crippen was accused of killing his wife with which of the following poisons?|
Hyoscine. Hyoscine, also known as scopolamine, can be administered orally, by injection, in eye drops, and transdermally. Symptoms of hyoscine poisoning include headache, nausea and vomiting. This is followed by dizziness, difficulty swallowing, convulsions and irregular heartbeat. Death usually occurs from repeated seizures or heart failure. Dr. Crippen was found guilty of murder after his wife's body was found buried in the basement of his home. She exhibited traces of hyoscine as well as a gunshot wound. Dr. Crippen may have shot her when the poison did not act fast enough. He was executed Nov. 2, 1910. The other choices are bases that are found in human DNA.
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