Strychnine poisoning

Strychnine poisoning

Name = Strychnine poisoning

Caption = Strychnine
DiseasesDB =
ICD10 = ICD10|T|65|1|t|51
ICD9 = ICD9|989.1
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj =
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Strychnine poisoning can be fatal to humans and can be introduced to the body 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 used in literature and film.


Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body's muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck. 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. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. The subject will die within 2–3 hours after exposure. At the point of death, the body "freezes" immediately, even in the middle of a convulsion, resulting in instantaneous rigor mortisFact|date=June 2008.


There is no specific antidote for strychnine. Treatment of strychnine poisoning involves an oral application of an activated charcoal infusion which serves to absorb any poison within the digestive tract that has not yet been absorbed into the blood. Anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital or diazepam are administered to control convulsions, along with muscle relaxants such as dantrolene to combat muscle rigidity. [ [ Strychnine: ] ] If the patient survives past 24 hours, recovery is probable.

The treatment for strychnine poisoning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was to administer tannic acid which precipitates the strychnine as an insoluble tannate salt, and then to anaesthetise the patient with chloroform until the effects of the strychnine had worn off.

trychnine poisoning in animals

Strychnine poisoning in animals occurs usually from ingestion of baits designed for use against rodents (especially gophers and moles) and coyotes. Rodent baits are commonly available over-the-counter, but coyote baits are illegal in the United States. However, since 1990 in the United States most baits containing strychnine have been replaced with zinc phosphide baits.cite book|author=Ettinger, Stephen J.;Feldman, Edward C.|title=Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine|edition=4th ed.|publisher=W.B. Saunders Company|year=1995|id=ISBN 0-7216-6795-3] The most common domestic animal to be affected is the dog, either through accidental ingestion or intentional poisoning. An approximate lethal dose for a dog is 0.75 mg per kg body weight.cite web|author=Beasley, V.|year=1999|title=Toxicants Associated with Seizures|work=Veterinary Toxicology|url=| accessdate=2006-06-18] For a 0.3% strychnine bait, five grams of bait could be enough to kill a 20 kilogram dog.

The onset of symptoms is 10 to 120 minutes after ingestion. Symptoms include seizures, a "sawhorse" stance, and opisthotonus (rigid extension of all four limbs). Death is usually secondary to respiratory paralysis. Treatment is by detoxification using activated charcoal, pentobarbital for the symptoms, and artificial respiration for apnea.

In most States you need a special license to use and prose Strychnine for agricultural use.

Notable strychnine poisonings

* Strychnine poisoning (in contaminated wine) is one of the theories concerning the death of Alexander the Great.
* The poisoning of James Preston Metzker in the Almanac case
*In the 1904 Olympics, Thomas Hicks (U.S.) won the marathon at St. Louis and collapsed. It took hours to revive him; he had taken brandy mixed with strychnine to help him win his gold medal. [Citation | last = McGuire | first = John M. | title = Marathon set the pace for St. Louis Olympics | newspaper = St. Louis Post-Dispatch | year = 2004 | date = April 25, 2004 | url = ]
*A tonic laced with arsenic and strychnine that was religiously given to legendary racehorse Phar Lap may have caused his death. [cite web | last = Cormick | first = Brendan | title = Potion drove Phar Lap to victory and death | work = Horse Racing News | publisher = | date = 2006-10-24 | url = | accessdate = 2007-06-24 ]
*Strychnine was used in several of the murders committed by serial killer Thomas Neill Cream, who poisoned prostitutes on the streets of London.
*Famous Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson's whiskey bottle was laced with strychnine, resulting in pneumonia.
*A childhood friend of Vincent Van Gogh, Margot Begemann, attempted suicide by ingestion of strychnine.
*Two Australian teenage boys poisoned themselves in a highly publicized incident February 28th 2008 [cite web | title = Men died after taking rat poison | publisher = ABC Australia | url = | date = 2008-02-28 ]
*Belle Gunness of La Porte, Indiana, also known as "Lady Bluebeard", reportedly used strychnine to murder her victims at the turn of the last century. [Citation | last = Kridel | first = Kristen | title = A century-old mystery: Did serial killer fake her death? | newspaper = Chicago Tribune | year = 2008 | date = February 12, 2008 | url =,1,4579644.story?track=rss ]
*Hannes Hirtzberger, Mayor of Spitz in Lower Austria was reported to have been poisoned by Helmut Osberger, a local wine producer . [Citation | last = Rogers | first = David | title = Suspect in poisoned-mayor case has been arrested | newspaper = Wiener Zeitung | year = 2008 | date = February 28, 2008 | url = ]
*Jane Stanford, cofounder of Stanford University was murdered by strychnine poisoning. [Citation | last = Cutler | first = Robert | title = The Mysterious Death of Jane Stanford | year = 2003 |id=ISBN 0804747938 | url = ]


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