Toxicology and Poisons
Forensic Science B-6
What is a poison?
"All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy." --Paracelsus
Why are poisons difficult to detect?
If this substance is taken in large quantities is gives the symptoms of Hypoglycemia. The over use is hard to detect for a person without diabetes until it comes to a serious level leading to seizures and eventually death.
If large quantities of adrenaline are injected the recipient goes into cardiac arrest leading to a heart attack. The heart attack is misleading and is often disclosed as the man cause of death due to heart problems.
Nitrogen at the partial pressure in the atmosphere has no effect on humans because it can't get into our lungs at that pressure. If you remove the oxygen and put more nitrogen eventually you will reach a point where you will be dead. It is not easily detectable since it gives the affect of being drunk, up until the heart fails.
Maryann Neabor of Shamog, NJ, says "she just wanted to make her brother-in-law sick" when she fed him pineapple smoothies laced with antifreeze back in 2004. The jury saw it as aggravated manslaughter. Antifreeze is primarily ethylene glycol, a chemical with a resemblance to sugar which is why it is sweet to the taste. This sweetness allows it to be put into fruit drinks and other foods and go undetected by the person consuming them.
Following ingestion the symptoms of poisoning progress from signs similar to intoxication and vomiting; to hyperventilation, metabolic acidosis, and cardiovascular dysfunction; and finally acute kidney failure. The major cause of toxicity is not the ethylene glycol itself but its metabolites, mainly glycolic acid and oxalic acid.
The murder of Nevada Sate Controller Kathy Augustine by her third husband, Chaz Higgs. Police believed that Higgs gave her a lethal dose of the muscle relaxant succinylcholine. Higgs was the nurse who had cared for Charles Augustine, her second husband, after his stroke. Shortly after Charles's death, Higgs married Kathy Augustine. At the time she died, she was running for State Treasurer. However, Augustine had been impeached by the Nevada Assembly for misuse of state funds. Higgs, who apparently married her because he thought she would have money and power, decided to murder her. Being a nurse, Higgs had access to a wide array of drugs. The choice of succinylcholine was a good one because it is not normally tested for in toxicology screens. Succinylcholine is a strong muscle relaxant that paralyzes the respiratory muscles. It is normally used in a hospital to allow the insertion of a breathing tube into the throat of a patient who is still conscious. In higher doses it can paralyze the entire breathing apparatus, and the victim slowly suffocates to death. The autopsy showed that Augustine had died of a heart attack. A small needle mark on her buttocks was overlooked in the initial autopsy. However, investigators were not so sure, and when police searched Higgs' house they found succinylcholine and other drugs in his possession. Higgs was arrested and eventually convicted of her murder.