Strychnine poisoning

Strychnine Poisoning

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Strychnine poisoning

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Strychnine poisoning can be fatal to humans and other animals and can occur by inhalation, swallowing or absorption through eyes or mouth. It produces some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms of any known toxic reaction. For this reason, strychnine poisoning is often portrayed in literature and film.

Presentation in humans

Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body's muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck in the form of trismus and risus sardonicus. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions, and get worse at the slightest stimulus. The convulsions progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Convulsions lead to lactic acidosis, hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis. These are followed by postictal depression. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. The subject dies within 2–3 hours after exposure.

One medical student in 1896 described the experience in a letter to the Lancet:

<blockquote>Three years ago I was reading for an examination,and feeling "run down". I took 10 minims of strychniasolution (B.P.) with the same quantity of dilute phosphoric acidwell diluted twice a day. On the second day of takingit, towards the evening, I felt a tightness in the "facialmuscles " and a peculiar metallic taste in the mouth. There wasgreat uneasiness and...
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