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drug to cause paralysis
Mulder & Scully | forehead
hankmoodyblues wrote in little_details
Hi all,

I'm writing something set in modern-day America and I'm looking for a drug/venom that would cause paralysis when administered. I'll take whatever I can get but bonus points for one which would cause paralysis from the neck down only (if such a thing even exists). I'd prefer it if the drug wasn't too difficult to obtain so several people could be suspected of administering it/being able to have it in their possession.

If such a drug does exist, how much would need to be administered to paralyse an average person, not taking into account obvious age/gender/weight differences?

I've tried Googling various terms relating to paralysis, drugs, snake venom and toxins, but in most results the paralysis is either vocal cord paralysis (which doesn't interest me) or relates to snake poison in Australia.

Thanks for any and all help.

It would be worth checking out curare, which is a paralytic found in the Amazon, but has been well-known in Europe for at least a couple of hundred years (so might be obtainable). IT's harmless if swallowed though, so if you need something that can be slipped into a drink or similar, curare is no use. It also won't be selective; I suspect the only way you can paralyse someone frhe neck down is by damaging or anaesthetising the spinal cord (but I'm not a doctor so I could be wrong about that); most systemics will have the same effect all over.

Also, do you need the victim to survive? Many if not all paralytics will affect breathing (by preventing the diaphragm from operating), so they can kill. That's how curare kills; the prey suffocate, although they can be kept alive using a respirator, and will then recover.

Tubocurarine, one of the components in curare, works fairly well for this purpose, and it used to be used in medicine to paralyse people being anaesthestised. However, it's fallen out of favour, mainly because it was unsafe compared to newer compounds. The BNF and EMC in the UK don't have any listings for it anymore, so it's probably not easy to obtain through routes such as supply to a pharmacy.

For extra trivia points on this topic... curare is extracted from a particular species of poisonous tree frog (no, I can't remember which one... I'm a biochemist/clinical biologist not a damn zoologist! :) ). It blocks the acetylcholine receptors in nerve cells in muscles thereby preventing synapse transmission of motor signals (you can send a signal to move to the muscle as much as you like but it ain't moving...).

In low doses it is used in modern surgery (or, maybe used to be used... there may be a more effective replacement by now) as a muscle relaxant. Useful when aneathitising a patient as it prevents involuntary movement during surgery. IN high doses it will indeed kill by preventing breathing and possibly stopping the heart. According to Sherlock Holmes (and this is probably true...) it was used on blow darts by Amazon tribes to paralyse prey.

Used to be used. Replaced by succinylcholine and vecuronium, mostly. I don't think anyone's using curare these days, but the principle is the same. Neuromuscular blockade.

In the episode Twenty-One Guns on ER/Season 12, Luka was injected with a drug they referred to as "Veck." The drug paralyzed him temporarily and required that he be intubated because he was unable even to breath for himself for the duration of the time it was in his system.

I tried to find the full name of the drug for you, but, had no luck. I'm also not sure how long it stays in the system. Hopefully this will give you a launch pad though.

Vecuronium bromide. Used in surgery and euthanasia. Only available IV; oral absorption is not possible.

Thank you, not finding the name was driving me crazy. So, they could shoot it up if they wantd to use it on someone else, which is how it was used on the ER episode. He was stabbed in the neck with the needle, and the syringe held the drug.

General anesthesia includes paralytics, which keep the patient immobilized throughout surgery. They should be relatively easy to google.

I also second curare, but an anaesthetic paralytic might be easier to obtain.

There isn't a drug that paralyzes people only below the neck. Anything injected will affect the cranial nerves as much as the spinal nerves. It will also make it impossible for your character to breathe without assistance.

Seconding anaesthetic paralytics like succinylcholine for the full-body paralysis.

Thank you all for your help (I suspected as much with the below-neck only paralysis but thank you for clarifying).

I've been researching Botox and clostridium botulinum - in high enough doses, would this be enough to cause full body paralysis? I've found the most common occurrence of botulism affecting humans is through food poisoning, particular in processed foods, and that Type A of said toxin often causes paralysis and various other symptoms. First of all, who would have access to this chemical? Second of all, could Botox cause full body paralysis? I know it is generally localised but there are reports of it spreading to other areas (but generally in the same area e.g. the face). Could it somehow spread throughout the body, for example through the bloodstream?

A few years ago a couple of people in Florida, I believe, were affected when they had Botox treatments that left them paralyzed. Here's a link with some details.

Botox is available to medical professionals administering it, either cosmetically for wrinkles, or medically for things like spasticity, so it is fairly widely available (as long as your character has access to that sort of thing, and doesn't mind that it is fairly expensive). It does cause paralysis, but from reading the product characteristics, there doesn't seem to be a large window for the effects you're after - you can cause more widespread paralysis with it in overdose, but at that point, it is very likely that they'll also be unable to breathe, and will therefore die. You'd need to get them set up for artificial respiration.

A large dose of IV botox would work (as would vecuronium or succinylcholine as above.) Death from tetanus works the same way, but I don't know of a commercially available tetanus toxin.

Any toxin/drug that paralyzes also paralyzes the diaphragm, so I hope you're planning on either killing or intubating this person.

Had a similar situation in a fic of mine, except the victim in question was Japanese. Blowfish toxin, either administered intentionally or accidentally through poorly prepared sushi, would cause total body paralysis. As with the other options above, total paralysis includes the diaphragm meaning you'd need respiration support to survive it.

Sad to say I wasn't able to find that entry again. :( A little googling though reminds me that blowfish is properly called fugu, and the nasty ingredient is tetrodotoxin.

Paralysis in the legs


2010-02-13 02:34 pm (UTC)

Hi, I know this link has been dead for nearly a year now so there probably won't be a response to it. But I was wondering, i'm doing similar thing in a story of mine. I need to paralyze a character, but I only want to paralyze their legs. Other symptoms can occur but the legs are the main focus. I was reading the replies and there are some great suggestions there. But i was wonder is there anything that could be ingested - the drug to be taken through liquid that could cause or even maintain a state of paralysis (that had been temporary) in a person's legs?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hey check this substance that progressively causes full body paralysis its called Coniine. I don't know any details on the dosage to be administered and how to procure it though.Also please do tell me after all your research did you find the drug that causes your desired paralysis and how easy is it to procure it. Its damn interesting.

In the movie, “What Lies Beneath” there is a very realistic scene in which the husband, who is a medical researcher and we see a quick clip of him [injecting?] rats with a substance that causes paralysis. I haven’t seen the movie recently enough to give you all the details, i.e. I don’t remember whether or not there was a name for the compound being studied, and I don’t know if it caused complete paralysis or just from the neck down or everywhere except the eyes.

Anyway, the husband poisons his wife with this chemical (I actually want to say via inhalation with a rag), and within at least a minute and a half, she becomes paralyzed. It was progressive because I remember her trying to crawl away from him with her hands because her legs were paralyzed. Anyway, it quickly progresses to the rest of her body. The husband then picks her up and places her in a bathtub such that her head is below the top of the tub. We all know what happens after that, right?

The water fills up and she holds her breath long enough to use the small sensation and control she starts to feel in her toes to move the don’t drain/ drain knob (haha, I can’t think of the right name for that! I hope you at least know what I’m trying to get at) from on the off.

Obviously, the husband didn’t think the paralytic agent he used could wear off in time for the wife to save herself.

Also of note, her respiratory system was still intact (as I said, she held her breath). Even if the drug is completely fictional, it is possible for other paralytics to be given in a dose that doesn’t cause full paralysis of the respiratory muscles.

I thought you might like to know that there is the plausible option that the villain has access to chemicals in the process of being researched or developed to produce your sought-after paralytic effect.

I’m researching this too. So I’ll try to let you know whatever helpful things I find out.

Even though “you” might not be there. =)

Etorphine M99, will do the trick


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