Thursday, September 20, 2012

Undetectible poisoning

I’m writing for help on poisoning. I want something that’ll work fast, but can be put in a drink. It can’t be detectible on a blood test. I also want something unique—not cyanide or something like that.


Okay. How about something not available in the United States? (Assuming the setting is in the USA)

Years ago, coyotes were poisoned with a substance known as 10 80 (ten eighty), a poison that affects metabolism in mammals. It’s illegal in the USA.

The poison is stable in alcohol, if that helps.

After ingestion, symptoms appear in 30 minutes to two hours. The first indication that something is wrong is nausea, followed by a sense of apprehension. Stomach ache and sweating are next. Twitching starts as the muscles are affected, and progress to seizures. Left untreated, it affects the heart, causing malignant rhythms that kill.

If help reaches your victim in time, a hospital can try to support the patient symptomatically with IV fluids, treatment of heart rhythm disturbances, and meds for seizures. If they know what your character was poisoned with, the doctors can try administering glyceryl monoacetate, which may compete for the poison at the level of the body’s cellular metabolism. There is no laboratory assay for 10 80. Citric acid levels may be elevated in the blood.

Alcohol (the drinking kind) was used as an antidote for many years with little success.

Few (very few) people or animals survive the poisoning.

Questions? Comments?

Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it. Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
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  1. Well, I don't like this poisoning of coyotes, but people do a lot of things to animals they consider pests. However, using it on make-believe but ghastly victims in a mystery sounds peachy. I'd rather they didn't suffer so much but keeled over instantly in their soup! Any hope of that?

    1. Mmm...
      I suppose if you use enough of it, the poison will overwhelm the metabolic system more quickly. Maybe if the soup course is long...

  2. Kelly, how do they know if a person is poisoned by it if there are no tests? Is it a matter of ruling out everything else? Thanks. For one of my chararcters I used Zygadenus venenosusus, otherwise referred to as deathcamas, quick acting but detectable.

    1. Apparently if it's known that 10 80 was the poison, they can assay tissue (read: autopsy) to confirm. The only lab test is to look for an elevated citric acid level--not a commonly ordered test.
      Without a high level of suspicion, eg, the victim ate poisoned wild game, the diagnosis is unlikely to be made.
      Some victims look like they died of a heart attack, and no autopsy is ever performed.

  3. In one of the Georgette Heyer mysteries, the poisoning was done by nicotine in high doses, injected into the toothpaste, about halfway up the tube. So when the poisoning occurred the killer was on vacation, and it seemed like the case wouldn't be solved. Until someone else in the family died from using the leftover toothpaste.
    Nicotine has killed a lot of smugglers who had tobacco under their shirts.

    1. Yep.
      This is why nicotine patches (for smoking cessation) need to be disposed of carefully. Small kids and animals have ingested them with fatal consequences.
      Interesting about the toothpaste. :-)

    2. Just remembered, that book by Georgette Heyer was "Behold, Here's Poison" Appropriate title

  4. Digitoxin from foxglove. The main thing you have going for you (as the murderer) is during a routine autopsy they only check standard things like alcohol and maybe other common street drugs. If the victim was older sudden death wouldn't raise many suspicions.

    10 80 sounds nasty but it would also be more noticeable because of all the contortions. I would think the death campus, digitoxin and nightshade.

    1. Digitoxin is a cardiotoxin, and more likely to reach fatal levels in patients with impairment of kidney function.
      In an autopsy, any drug the patient was known to be taking (and anything that paramedics bring in with the patient) will be assayed if possible. If the older patient was on dig, it'll be included if an autopsy is performed.
      You're right, a routine drug screen won't include digitoxin.
      10 80 is nasty. This is why it's tightly controlled and not legal as a pesticide (in this case, pests being mammals).

    2. What about oleander? Is it easily detected?

    3. Hmm...
      I don't know about detection on that one--will have to check into it!

  5. I've got to keep these in mind next time I need a poison! Thank you, everyone!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl!
      Feel free to ask if there's a particular scenario you're interested in.
      Cheers, Kelly

  6. Since you said the 10 80 isn't available in the United States, how would one go about obtaining such a poison to use on their victim? I started a story a few years ago and was definitely going the poison route - something not detectable and injected through the cork of a champaigne bottle since the cork is full of holes and it would be hard to detect a needle injection point in a cork. Or at least that is my thinking and the actual murderer is a hired assassin - literally getting away with murder.

    Anyway - I may eventually continue that story and if I find the right poison, I may use it in the story - thanks for the question - E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of FINALLY HOME, a middle grade/YA mystery

  7. Hello, Elysabeth.
    Since 10 80 is soluble in alcohol, it'd work well for your story.
    You can get it in Mexico, Canada, Israel, and Australia.
    In Australia, there is a plant called poison pea in which the 10 80 poison naturally occurs. Many Australian mammals have some resistance to it--like kangaroos.
    Farmers there have to take off a lot of topsoil to get rid of poison pea--otherwise the noxious compound is incorporated into the food supply. Now THERE'S a horror story for you!
    Thanks for the discussion!
    Cheers, Kelly