Phosphorus – An Enlightened Poison

The name phosphorus comes from a Greek word meaning “bearer of light” and isLantern commercially produced in two predominant forms—white and red phosphorus. In its white phosphorus (WP) structure, WP is a waxy substance that gives off a slight glow in air. In the late 1880’s a Berlin woman laced her husband’s soup with the chemical to secure an insurance settlement, but the crime was foiled when the husband’s friends noticed that the soup glowed when he stirred it.

White phosphorus is capable of igniting in air once its temperature reaches about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) and for that reason is used in Flarefireworks, flares and weaponry. Red phosphorus is far more stable at room temperature and that form is used on match tips and also in pesticide formulations, such as rat and roach pastes. Red phosphorus can also be volatile at higher temperatures and can become explosive when used as an ingredient in backroom methamphetamine labs.

Most phosphorus poisonings these days are suicide attempts, but the chemical might make for an interesting weapon of murder. A lethal dose is said to be in the 50-65mg range and the road to death is two-fold. Initially, a victim will experience mild gastric distress that includes abdominal pain and nausea—general symptoms not specifically linked to lethal consequences. There is no specific antidote to phosphorus poisoning.

Those initial symptoms progress in about two to approximately six hours after ingestion, and these symptoms include gastrointestinal burning, vomiting and diarrhea. One of the more interesting telltale signs of phosphorus Phosphoresencepoisoning is a characteristic garlic odor to the victim’s breath and vomitus. Another interesting piece of evidence is a slight glow (phosphorescence) to the victim’s vomitus and feces that is termed “the smoking stool syndrome”.

Phosphorus is an interesting mineral that’s essential to human bone structure and is necessary for the storage and release of energy in human cells. However, what little we absorb from food goes a long way to maintain human health. More than that and the potential for murder exists.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Fountain of Youth Found

A recent article in the journal Nature Materials made its way into national headlines this past week because of a new product that has great potential for use Tas an anti-aging cosmetic. The product, called XPL in the study, is a silicon-based polymer that becomes a skin-conforming elastic “second skin” that smooths out wrinkles, reshapes the surface of skin to accomplish such feats of wonder as eliminate puffy bags under eyes and vanish visible signs of aging almost instantly.

Impossible you say? Well, I certainly was skeptical, but apparently such a product is a reality and commercial use is on the horizon. Over the last five years, a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has focused its work on a chemical structure known as siloxane, a complex chain of molecules containing silicon and oxygen, that evolved into the final XPL material. It can be produced either as a cream or an ointment.

XPL is applied to skin in two layers. The first contains the key XPL silicon-based substance and a second layer applied over that contains a platinum catalyst that causes the material to stiffen into an elastic coating that can remain in place for 24 hours—currently the duration of its cosmetic effects.

The product smoothed out age-related wrinkles, flattened the fat padding below the eyes that cause under-eye skin sagging and produced a barrier that helped natural skin retain moisture much better than top-of-the-line commercial moisturizers.fountain-of-youth-archaeologic

Elasticity testing determined that the material easily bounced back to its original state after being stretched more than 250%. This outperformed natural skin, which can usually only be stretched to about 180%. XPL certainly has the potential to be a topical fountain of youth!

The potential use for such a product, however, goes far beyond its marketing potential as a cosmetic. Wearable “second skin” could be used to cover birthmarks and tattoos, and it could be made into a topical remedy to treat eczema and other skin conditions.

Other potential medical uses include applications as wound dressings, adding a sunblock to screen out harmful sun rays, or as a new drug delivery method. Transdermal patches now deliver a wide variety of medications, but topical drug delivery technology has its limitations, as I indicated in my Transdermal Poisoning blog earlier this year.

images-4XPL technology has the potential to expand the transdermal drug application market because of its enhanced properties of being flexible, non-irritating, more optically pleasing, and its unique ability to conform to the movement of skin and yet return to its original shape.

From my viewpoint as the author of thrillers and murder mysteries, I see the potential for interesting plot developments using an XPL-type product with GPS technology, absorbable poisons, and information transportation on an unique, never-before-seen micro-scale.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Shortcuts to Fitness

There’s been some interesting “talk” in the news recently about The One-Minute group-of-kids-runningWorkout. That’s right! One minute a day => seven minutes a week, and that’s supposed to make you healthier and give you the energy of a kid again.

To say the least, I was highly skeptical of any such shortcut to fitness, but I became extremely curious and had to check this out. I’m a long-distance runner, I lift weights and pepper in ballroom dancing to keep my waistline under control as the years mount.

11998965_1040349979311329_78404066168190690_nI feel pretty good about my health status, but all that exercise takes time—time I could be writing and killing off a few more characters in my murder mystery novels or creating more international intrigue in my thriller novels. So I researched this “drop in the bucket” workout plan and found a few interesting facts as well as a few “deviations” from those facts.

It turns out that researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada conducted a study that involved directing fourteen sedentary men and women to do one minute of intense, all-out exercise several times a week for six weeks. The goal was to improve their endurance and lower their blood pressure. That’s a reasonable focus since we all know that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to poor physical endurance, increased weight and chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.

The exercise consisted of a short warm-up for two minutes on a stationary bike5379 (already I’m seeing the misnomer in the name), then the participants pedaled as hard as they possibly could for three 20-second intervals followed by a cool-down of two minutes of slower pedaling (so far I’m seeing at least a five-minute workout). They did this intense exercise regimen three times a week, all adding up to 30 minutes of exercise a week (so each session ACTUALLY took TEN minutes to accomplish).

After six weeks of this periodic but regular intense bursts of activity, the participants were measured again for their endurance to some unnamed activity (presumably the same physical activity as measured at the beginning of the study). The results indicated a 12% gain in physical endurance, lowered blood pressure levels, and a general improvement in muscle activity.

By any standard, this is impressive and this carve-out research was part of a larger study conducted by the kinesiology department at McMaster University, which has spent years studying the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as compared to the benefits of moderate exercise over longer periods of time.

jumping-man-1587747The One-Minute Workout is based on performing one of a group of exercises (like push-ups, running up a set of stairs, squat jumps or jumping rope) and focuses on only ONE of those exercises at a time for a total of one minute of exercise several times a week—and eventually one or more times a day. The concept is that anyone can carve out one minute here and there in their busy lives to focus on becoming and staying fit.

I certainly believe in HIIT-type exercise activity and know that the science behind it is solid. Short but intense workouts are effective at increasing strength and endurance. I coach long-distance runners in my spare time and one of the best ways to improve running pace (helping runners to run faster) is HIIT training via short but repeated bursts of sprinting on a running track and/or running up a short hill several times in a row. Doing these types of activities at least once a week, along with regular runs, certainly contributes to improving a runner’s overall speed.

As effective as short but intense exercise regimens can be, the problem is that any type of HIIT exercise routine is very uncomfortable—it HURTS to push your body to the limit, let it rest for a short period and then push it again to the limit. The positive results are definitely worth it and the gains in muscle endurance, cardio fitness and strength will certainly be there, but one must push through the pain to make that happen.

The negative aspects of HITT exercises (as an exclusive physical training focus) are77033d3218fa3d5036dc5079c9af70b1 that you’ll learn to dread those workouts because of the extreme physical stress they put on the body. You might possibly (and probably) find excuses to put them off (or to not do them at all). For sedentary, overweight individuals, this type of sudden bursts of exercise may be too difficult to accomplish and may even be dangerous until a certain level of fitness is achieved with a more moderate exercise program.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

______________________________________________

LIKE MURDER MYSTERIES?  

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Sleepless In Hong Kong . . .

Today I’m going to set aside my pen (or I should say my typing fingers) and turn over my blog to an author friend of mine. I met Seumus Gallacher online several years ago as we both struggled to promote our writing and became part of an international author support group called ASMSG that encouraged and promoted writers and their work. 

One of Seumus’s recent blogs tugged at my heartstrings as he described an interesting experience in Hong Kong that evolved into a lesson in kindness and mindful behavior. Any introduction to his blog would certainly fall short of actually reading his words. So without further delay, let me repost this wonderful blog for you.

SEUMUS GALLACHER . . .

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“…the trouble with short, fleeting visits to anywhere with a time zone difference of five hours is the dreaded jet lag… local time in Hong Kong touched 11.00 p.m. when this ol’ Jurassic tried to get some slumber… sure enuff, within minutes, out like a light I went… heavy duty ZZZZZZZZZs… then, bolt upright, owl-eyed, fast awake… the clock had advanced to only 2.20 a.m….the next two hours was an exercise in attempts at every sleeping position known to Mankind and hibernating animals… all to no avail… 5.00 a.m. arrived, and still dark outside the hotel window… and the stomach rumbles demanded food of some sort… NUTHIN to do but get out of the room, clad in typical wannabe-iconic-author-gear of T-shirt, floppy cotton basketball shorts and flip-flops… the accommodation is one-o’-them joints with no restaurant, so where to go?… easy… the ubiquitous open-all-night McDonald’s, not fifty feet away from the hotel front door… a deserted street, save for a couple of mewing cats  and a handful of night-watchmen-looking types on their way homeward… in the Golden Arches premises, nobody in the downstairs dispensing area apart from the server… I ordered the McSausage and Egg and took the tray to the restaurant’s upstairs level… and there, to my surprise I found it almost full of people…only about four tables out of twenty or so were vacant… each of the occupied tables had only a single person sitting at them… and NOT ONE had anything to eat or drink in front of them… some were slumped asleep on their folded arms, leaning forward onto the tables… others sat in bundled clothing in the corner sites, propping themselves up behind hoodies and wrapped assortment of jackets… it felt like a trailer for a Zombie movie… I’ve known rough times of hardship in my life, as prob’ly most of you Lads and Lassies of Blog Land also have, and instantly I felt the connection… these good folks were homeless… and I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the generosity of the McD’s serving staff for allowing a few hours of warmth and comparative comfort to the folks in there… nobody hassled me… nobody panhandled… and nobody really gave me a second look… and I was reminded immediately of sum’thing I’ve repeated several times on this ‘ere Blog over the past few years… EVERYBODY you meet… EVERYBODYis fighting some sort of battle we know NUTHIN about… be gentle, good people… be kind… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…”

For the full experience of Seumus’s Gallagher’s Blog (including an interesting video) and to see what other wonderfulness Seumus is up to, please click here!

c012dd68e790bb681edf669e65d472f6SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance five years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades.

As the self-professed ‘oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’ his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer’s need to ‘build the platform’, and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 15,000 direct contacts.

His first two crime-thrillers, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY and VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK blew his mind with more than 75,000 e-link downloads/sales to date. The third in what has become the ‘Jack Calder’ series, SAVAGE PAYBACK, was launched late 2013.

He started a humorous, informative, self-publishers blog less than two years ago, never having heard of a ‘blog’ prior to that, was voted ‘Blogger of the Year 2013’ and now has a loyal blog following on his networks. He says the novels contain his ‘Author’s Voice’, while the blog carries his ‘Author’s Brand’. And he’s LUVVIN IT!

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Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A Guest Blog, About James J. Murray, About Seumus Gallacher, About Writing, Kindness and Mindfulness, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Prescription For Murder Blog, Seumus Gallagher Blog, Sleepless in Hong Kong Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Polypharmacy

UnknownPopulation aging in first world countries is a growing concern for many reasons. One of those involves the issue of polypharmacy in the older adult.

Polypharmacy is defined as a patient using four or more medications concurrently and statistics show that 40% of senior adults living in their own homes are affected. Additionally, over 20% of adults with intellectual disabilities (Alzheimer’s and other dementia diagnoses) are exposed to polypharmacy prescribing practices.

A more accurate definition of polypharmacy is the use of more medications than areMH900321056 medically necessary, but that situation is more difficult to identify without discontinuing all medications one-at-a-time to discover which drug produces no ill effects when discontinued.

The potential for polypharmacy increases when patients are seen by multiple physicians for varying chronic illnesses. Often adequate communication among the prescribing physicians is lacking and this contributes to additional, and at times inappropriate, prescribing.

Specific concerns regarding polypharmacy include increased adverse drug reactions that can erode a patient’s quality of life, as well as a decrease in mobility and mental capacity. With polypharmacy, there is the potential for increased drug interactions that can exhibit as either enhanced or reduced therapeutic effects of the interacting drugs. Such situations where drugs literally fight with each other in the body may necessitate medication dosage adjustments to compensate for the interactions if the offending drug regimen must be continued.

Additional concerns include a phenomenon known as Prescription Cascade—a MH900321090term that refers to the side effects of a drug that are misdiagnosed as completely new medical issues and that result in further drug prescribing. The potential for additional side effects and/or drug interactions with the introduction of even more drugs can lead to FURTHER adverse drug reactions, and potentially even more drugs added to the equation.

One of the issues at hand is that patients are physiologically unique and can react somewhat differently to drug therapies. Therefore, physicians may not easily identify a new patient complaint as a drug side effect or a drug combination interaction.

There are a couple of specific actions a patient or a caregiver can do to prevent polypharmacy adverse events. The first is to make sure all physicians involved in drug prescribing for a patient communicate with each other via medical record copying and that all physicians involved have a complete list of current medications that a patient is taking.

A second very important step is to use only one pharmacy when filling prescriptionsUnknown-1 and ask the pharmacist to do a thorough drug interaction study of current medications. The drugs involved in the interaction study should include over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbs since these too can contribute to adverse drug reactions and interactions. Some of the more commonly used OTC drugs include acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin and these can contribute to adverse drug effects, especially in the elderly.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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LETHAL MEDICINE:

Clinical pharmacist Jon Masters seems to have it all. But still haunted by his days inPrint Special Forces, Jon’s life implodes when evidence found at a murder scene implicates him in an elaborate scheme to distribute a pharmaceutical quality street drug disguised as an experimental medication. With the help of a trusted army confidante, Jon reenters the world of covert ops and cyber intelligence, and he embarks on a global mission to save his reputation and regain control over his life as he uncovers a complex international conspiracy to redefine the nation’s recreational drug culture.

Available in Paperback and eBook Formats!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013CG7AGU

Posted in A New Drug Abuse Threat, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Blog Writers, Blogging, Defining Polypharmacy, Drug Error Prevention, Drug Errors in The Elderly, Drug Misadventures, James J. Murray Blog, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, Misuse of Drugs, New Blog, Pharmacist Directed Drug Interaction Studies in Community Pharmacies, Polypharmacy and the Aging Patient, Polypharmacy in First World Countries, Polypharmacy in the Elderly, Prescription Cascade Effect, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription Drugs and the Aging Population, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Trends, Preventing Drug Interactions in Polypharmacy, The Pharmacy Profession, The Practice of Pharmacy, Value of Consulting With Your Pharmacist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TABUN – A Dramatic Murder Weapon!

Although first developed as a possible pesticide in Germany in 1936, tabun imagesquickly became known as an excellent chemical warfare agent and was made on an industrial scale by Germany during World War II. It was the first of the so-called G-Series nerve agents developed during that time.

Tabun is among the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. Since tabun is much easier to make than other nerve agents, countries that develop nerve agent capability but lack advanced industrial facilities often start with tabun.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq used nerve agents against Iranian ground forces and tabun was among the agents used. Today, international production is highly controlled, and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 has outlawed the stockpiling of this chemical.

Tabun, by appearance, can be deceiving. Although an extremely lethalclear-liquid-pouring-beaker-slow-motion-43369446 chemical, it presents as a clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid with a faint fruity odor. Tabun readily mixes with water, so it could be used to poison water and water-based liquids. Since tabun contamination is possible on a small or a grand scale, it could be utilized for an intimate murder scene or be used by a thriller writer to create scenes of catastrophic destruction.

The toxic effects of tabun occur even if the contaminated liquid is not consumed. Merely having the chemical come into contract with skin can be deadly. Even with its distinctive faint fruity odor, that may not be noticeable enough to warm victims that tabun is present.

smoke-vapor_645x400Tabun transforms into a vapor when heated, and the vapor can easily be absorbed into clothing materials. When fabrics have been exposed to the vapor, the clothing releases the toxic vapors for hours after and can be deadly to anyone wearing the clothing.

If tabun is released into the air (either as a liquid spray or a vapor), exposure can be through skin contact, eye contact or by inhalation. An interesting fact is that tabun vapor is heavier than air, so it will create a greater hazard in low-lying areas by replacing the air.

The extent of poisoning caused by tabun depends on the amount and form of tabun to which the person was exposed. Symptoms can appear within a few seconds after exposure to tabun vapors and within a few minutes after exposure to the liquid form.

The symptoms of tabun exposure include nervousness/restlessness, pupil contraction, a runny nose, excessive salivation, and difficulty in breathing. The chemical’s toxic effects interfere with the normal operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s “off switch” for glands and muscles. In effect, the body’s glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated after exposure to tabun. After a time, they tire and can no longer function.

Initial symptoms include a slow heartbeat, drooling, chest tightness and sweatingimages-1 with rapid progression to convulsions, total lung function shutdown, and loss of bladder and bowel control. Even a small drop of tabun on the skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching where the chemical touched the skin.

Recovery from tabun exposure is possible with treatment and life support measures. There are a couple of antidotes available (pralidoxime and deazapralidoxime), but they must be used quickly to be effective.

Tabun is an intriguing chemical, somewhat easy to make for a seasoned chemist, and can be a dramatic addition to a thriller or murder mystery plot.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Aconite – A Two-Edged Sword!

Many botanical compounds have important medical uses, and some of modern medicine’s most important drugs were derived initially from plant sources.

narrow_therapeutic_index_ntiHowever, some of these botanical compounds have a very narrow dosage range between a therapeutic effect and toxicity. This tight range of beneficial action is alternately referred to as the Therapeutic Index or the Therapeutic Window.

This concept certainly applies to a very interesting botanical that has been used throughout the ages and is present today in many homeopathic preparations.

Aconite is the usual reference to aconitum, a plant genius thataconite_as resembles wild parsley or horseradish. There are 350 species of aconite that exist around the world, 170 in China alone. Many are found throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. More than 100 species are found in the temperate climates of both the United States and Canada.

Throughout the ages, aconite alternately has been referred to as monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, devil’s helmet and blue rocket.

In modern homeopathic medicine, aconite is used for general malaise, undefined weakness and to stimulate poor circulation. People with 2d38865b498b0a2a5ee034f4a057e6b4_nnumbness in the extremities or poor circulation (as in cold hands and feet) use aconite preparations to stimulate circulation, hence its colloquial reference name of “blue rocket” to the variety that produces beautiful deep blue flowers. In the same way, aconite preparations are used to alleviate joint pain, inflammation and certain skin diseases by stimulating blood circulation throughout the body.

The mechanism of action appears to be the increased production of nitric oxide in the human body. There has been considerable interest recently in nitric oxide supplementation for athletes involved in performance sports to increase their exercise intensity and endurance.

Since aconite is readily absorbed through the skin, topical aconite preparations (liniments, creams and lotions) are available that are used as “counterirritants”, products that stimulate local blood circulation and produce localized warmth to relieve joint pain and the leg pain from sciatica.

However, it should be noted that aconite is a highly poisonous plant and small amounts of the pure plant are highly toxic. So the above-mentioned preparations contain very small, very defined quantities of aconite.

As little as 2mg of pure aconite or one gram of the plant can cause640px-Aconitum_variegatum_110807f death! Even slight contact with the flowers can cause the fingers of one’s hand to become numb—a typical example of the therapeutic effect of aconite progressing to a toxic side effect with excessive exposure.

The therapeutic, as well as the lethal, compound in aconite is aconitine, a toxic alkaloid that generally accounts for about 1.5% of the dry weight of the plant.

Safe dosing of aconite tincture depends on meticulous processing of the plant using everything but the root, and pounding it into a pulp that can be pressed and mixed in alcohol to extract the aconitine alkaloid. Straining and diluting the resulting product will produce the desired homeopathic therapy, and a more concentrated tincture produces an interesting poison if you’re attempting to develop an unusual murder plot idea.

heart2battackSymptoms of aconite poisoning include nausea, vomiting, sweating, breathing difficulties and heart problems. Death usually results from paralysis of the respiratory system or cardiac arrest.

Although aconite can be lethal when applied to the skin, smaller doses are deadly when taken orally, and any oral dose beyond the therapeutic range will cause burning and tingling of the lips, tongue, mouth and throat. Numbness of the throat will follow, with difficulty in speaking, blurred vision and an interesting green-yellow vision distortion.

This last side effect would make for an interesting clue in a murder scene when deciding to use an aconite preparation to kill off a character in your murder mystery.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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