Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Molecular mass||334.41 g/mol|
Strychnine (pronounced (British) or /strɪknaɪn/ (U.S.)) is a very toxic (LD50 = 1 mg/kg), colourless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually asphyxia or sheer exhaustion. The most common source is from the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica tree. Strychnine is one of the most bitter substances in the world. Its taste is detectable in concentrations as low as 1 ppm.
Strychnine poisoning can be fatal to humans, by inhalation, swallowing or skin contact. It produces some of the most dramatic, terrifying, best known, and painful symptoms imaginable. For this reason, strychnine poisoning is often used in literature and film. The approximate lethal dose is extremely small, less than 0.2 mg/kg.
10 to 20 minutes after exposure, every muscle in the body will start to simultaneously contract, starting with the head and neck. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions. They get worse at the slightest stimulus. They progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the brain's breathing apparatus, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. At that time, the body "freezes," even in the middle of a convulsion. Rigor mortis sets in immediately, with the eyes left wide open.
Treatment involves giving depressants to control the convulsions. If the patient lives 24 hours, recovery is probable.
Strychnine in drugs
There is a common but wrong urban legend that strychnine is added to drugs like LSD or that strychnine is present in the peyote cactus. It should be noted that the dose of LSD is so small that it could not be mixed with a toxic amount of strychnine, even if strychnine made up an entire blotter square. See: Strychnine in LSD? (Erowid)
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