Murder At 30,000 Feet!

Modern pharmaceuticals are excellent alternatives to more invasive procedures when aMH900400871 medical cure is required. Such medications not only prolong life but also enhance it in the process.

Ironically, those same wonder drugs can become instruments of death when they are used in an ill-intended fashion. An example of such a sinister effect includes the misuse of the entire class of coagulant drugs.

Coagulant drugs are those that cause blood to clot, essentially preventing excessive MH900308894bleeding. These drugs specifically help blood coagulate when bleeding is uncontrolled to prevent further blood loss. The cause could be a sudden trauma, such as an accident; or it could be from a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia.

Whatever the cause of the excessive bleeding, the ominous blood loss is stopped and normal clotting initiates as a result of three general types of drugs: Blood products (such as clotting factors), injectable Vitamin K and/or a number of anti-fibrinolytic drugs.

Each of these drugs helps regulate blood coagulation and saves lives in the process.42-16083573 But, when there is no essential need, the use of these drugs causes excessive blood clotting and creates life-threatening blood clots that travel within the body’s circulatory system searching for tissue to destroy.

An artificially-created blood clot could be fatal if it lodged in the heart, lungs or the brain, creating either a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism or a strokeany of which could be deadly if the clot were large enough to cut off blood flow to a vital organ.

So, where is that murder aspect I spoke about—the sinister part? Well, it’s really very simple. Coagulant drugs are readily available in any hospital pharmacy, from several pharmaceutical manufacturers and from many drug wholesalers. Misdirect a vial of one of these life-saving medications and inject a healthy dose into a normal individual with no bleeding issues, and you have a perfect murder scene.

About now, you should be questioning if the injection would leave trace evidence. Well, Vitamin K and certain blood-clotting factors would be the least likely since they’re already present in a normal person’s body chemistry, but admittedly the levels would be elevated. Therefore, you’d have to use some imagination to create a much more believable scene, something with a blood clot as a possible outcome.

Many studies indicate that high altitudes and remaining sedentary for long periods of time—such as travel on an international flight, for example—can create the perfect storm for a deep vein thrombosis—a blood clot, commonly referred to as a DVT. It happens more often than one would think on extended flights. In fact, it happens so much more than one might imagine that each seat pocket has instructions for stretching and exercising the legs during a long flight to prevent DVTs.

MH900442499So if you need to kill off one of your characters in an unusual manner, have your victim take a long international flight. An accidental bump into the shoulder of the victim by an attacker and a quick injection of a lethal dose of Vitamin K would insure a very painful and deadly outcome for your victim by the time the plane would land.

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

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Lethal Adrenaline Rush

Adrenaline is our friend! It’s one of those hormones that floods our bodies when werun severely injure ourselves, feel afraid, or do strenuous exercise. It’s known as “the fight or flight hormone” (along with some help from norepinephrine and dopamine). And it’s interchangeably referred to as adrenaline or epinephrine.

But what happens when too much pours into our bloodstream? We DIE! And that makes for a very interesting method of murder and can become the basis of a dramatic murder scene in writing.

We’ve all experienced an adrenaline rush in some form or another. From whatever cause, when our adrenal glands pump adrenaline (epinephrine) into our bloodstream, we experience: 1) a noticeable increase in strength, 2) no feeling of pain, 3) heightened senses, 4) a sudden burst of energy, and 5) our breathing and heart rate increases.

Such symptoms of extra adrenaline in our bodies may be in response to extreme fear, a life-threatening trauma (either to ourselves or others), or as a result of competitive sports participation. It helps us think clearly, react rapidly and appropriately, and dulls pain when needed. This experience is known as an “adrenergic storm” and is the basis of the fight or flight reaction.

autoinjectorAdrenaline, as an epinephrine drug, also treats severe allergic reactions since the drug narrows blood vessels to raise falling blood pressure. It also opens airway passages that may be constricted with associated wheezing. There are auto-injectors available for people who may experience such allergic reactions.

The drug is readily available in an intramuscular auto-injector mechanism as an adult dose of 0.3mg (the 1:1000 strength). Since I have asthma, I carryepipen around an injector. I’ve not used it for an asthmatic episode, but I did use it once while experiencing a rather dramatic reaction to an antibiotic.

Recently, there has been much in the news about a certain drug manufacturer that dramatically increased the price of this live-saving drug from about $100US for a double pack to over $600US for that same pack. That tragedy is another whole blog in itself and I’ll leave that for another time since the backlash is still unfolding. For today, I’ll focus on this drug’s possible use as an intriguing murder weapon.

An overdose of adrenaline (epinephrine) flooding into our bodies can be LETHAL. At times, we’ve seen news reports of medical professionals mistakenly administering a wrong dose of epinephrine and killing the patient.

There are also reports of people using epinephrine as a weapon of murder! And the consequences of an epinephrine overdose can lead to complete cardiac arrest.

Initially, there’s a rapid onset of agitation, blood pressure spikes, the heart beats fast and irregular, slurred speech and confusion ensue, sometimes a severe headache is experienced—and then the person cascades into either a cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrhythmias prior to death.

Meds4_Pre-med3Treatments to prevent the fatal outcome include administration of benzodiazepines and beta-blocker drugs, but administration should be immediate since epinephrine acts rapidly, especially if it is given intravenously.

So, with a readily available source, rapid onset and a deadly outcome, adrenaline could easily transition from friend to foe and provide an interesting murder weapon. That should create a rather dramatic murder scene involving either your protagonist or antagonist.

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

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DEA Lowers the BOOM on Kratom!

The herb kratom from the leaves of the tropical tree Mitragyna speciosa which growsrubiaceae-tree in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia has been used for centuries in folk medicine as a psychoactive drug to improve mood and relieve pain.

More recently, kratom has been in the news as a relatively new street drug and has been linked to hospitalizations and multiple deaths from its use. Therefore, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is rushing to criminalize this substance by making it a Schedule 1 drug (as is heroin, LSD, cocaine, and other illegal drugs) as early as the beginning of next month.

Kratom supporters—and even some drug policy experts—argue, however, that the DEA is acting too hastily to lump kratom into the opiod epidemic that this and other nations around the world are experiencing. They argue that the reported injuries and deaths from kratom abuse involve only individuals who test positive for multiple abused substances or who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions.

To date, the only significant side effects of consuming too much kratom are nausea and vomiting.

person-taking-pillsScientists have provided preliminary evidence that kratom could become a promising prescription drug to treat chronic pain, depression, anxiety and opioid addiction. Certain members of the scientific community are siding with kratom proponents who are petitioning the DEA to allow additional time for further study of this ancient substance before outlawing the drug altogether.

Current research has demonstrated that kratom provides both stimulant and sedativecup-of-coffee-coffee-17731301-1680-1050 effects, depending on the dose given. The tree from which kratom is extracted is in the Rubiaceae family, the same family as Coffea—the genius of flowering plants that produce coffee beans.

Research results indicate that the two main alkaloid substances in kratom (mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitagynine) create a combination of CNS stimulation and depressant effects by binding to monoaminergic and opioid receptors in the brain. Although most opioids have only pain relieving and sedative effects, low to moderate doses of kratom create a mild stimulant effect, and a larger dose relieves pain without the sedative side effects of opioids.

MH900438746Current thinking is that when an opioid drug binds to a receptor site in the brain, it triggers a number of different responses in a cell in a sort of protein cascade effect. One response is pain relief, while another triggers the negative side effects of respiratory depression and even comatose sedation—both of which are responsible for many opioid deaths.

Kratom, on the other hand, stimulates the painkilling response, but it doesn’t have much effect on the proteins that cause the sedative and depressant side effects. Thus, this ancient herb has potential as an opioid-like painkiller without the risky side effects and it could be used to relieve opiate addiction. Unfortunately, it is this same attribute that also makes it a popular street drug.

It’s interesting to note that the United States government has mandated (through additional regulations) that doctors prescribe fewer opiates to prevent increased drug abuse, but the DEA is rushing to ban kratom, an herbal alternative that could possibly help in that fight.

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

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FDA Says, “Stop Using Antibacterial Soaps and Cleansers!”

My blog headline mimics the headlines I’ve witnessed in print for the last couple of weeks. The FDA has finally ruled on the use, overuse and abusive use of antibacterial soaps.

I’ve blogged in the past (here and here) about the dangers of overuse ofMH900407492 antibacterial agents in soaps, as well as the use of antibiotics in raising farm animals. The primary danger is the potential to evolve bacteria into antibacterial resistant killers, thus creating a SUPER BUG that cannot be destroyed.

I’ve referred to this as a possible “post-antibiotic era” that includes an antibiotic discovery void—that void being the pharmaceutical industry’s failure to develop new antibiotics that are effective against these killer super bugs.

There was an interesting article published in 2014 in the Smithsonian Magazine that warned of the dangers of antibacterial agent overuse. A more recent article reported on the current FDA position regarding antibacterial soaps. It basically repeated the warnings expressed in that 2014 article. I’d like to share those warnings that the FDA published a couple of years ago and which lead to the current FDA policy published this summer.

The FDA has ruled the following:

  • Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than washing with soap and water.
  • Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria (killer super bugs).
  • Antibacterial soaps may actually disrupt our body’s endocrine system since the ingredients in these products are chemically similar to hormones such as thyroid hormone.
  • There is the potential that prolonged exposure to antibacterial soaps might create a greater chance of allergy development, including peanut allergies and hay fever.
  • Antibacterial soaps are bad for the environment since they can remain in waste water even after treatment at sewage plants and thereby contaminate our rivers, lakes and streams.

MH900443507I cannot imagine a future where a simple sore throat, a sinus infection or a cut on the arm becomes a death sentence. Without effective antibiotics, however, that fantasy future could become a reality.

The FDA is taking steps to prevent such a post-antibiotic era from happening—a time in which antibiotics are no more effective than washing with plain water.

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

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Antibiotic Discovery Void, Antibiotic Overuse, Antibiotic Resistance, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, Antibiotics in Agriculture, Blog Writers, Blogging, Developing Storyline Ideas, Drug Resistant Bacteria, FDA Concerns About Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, FDA Warning on Antibacterial Soaps, Ideas for Creating Permanent Change, James J. Murray Blog, Lethal Bacteria, Lethal Biologicals, MRSA, Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder With Party Drugs, New Blog, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription For Murder Blog, Superbug Epidemic, Superbugs, The Pharmacy Profession, The Post Antibiotic Era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Synthetic Marijuana – A Continuing Threat

Often I write about interesting designer drugs that can be used as murder weapons (like “Molly” in a previous blog). Today, I’d like to discuss another popular designer drug that’s periodically in the news.

Synthetic marijuana first appeared in the United States around 2009. It’s aimages-1 psychoactive designer drug created by spraying natural herbs with legal chemicals that imitate the effects of cannabis.

The chemicals used in the spray are called cannabinoids because they mimic the effects of real cannabis. They’re used to avoid the laws that make cannabis illegal and, although these chemicals do create a psychotropic effect, they don’t produce positive drug test results.

The detrimental effects of using synthetic marijuana, however, include severe agitation and delirium, confusion and extreme sleepiness, kidney damage and seizures.

The drug is increasingly popular among the teen crowd, with the biggest imagesusers in the 12-17 year-old age category. That’s because the product often is sold in stores as a household item and is sometimes labeled as herbal incense. In other retail establishments, like head shops and convenience stores, the product is marketed as “K2” or “Spice”.

Between 2011 and 2015, more than 20 deaths have been attributed to K2 overdoses, and in the last week K2 caused 52 patients to be treated by Austin-Travis County EMS personnel in Austin, Texas for severe reactions.

The hidden dangers of synthetic psychoactive drugs, like synthetic cannabis,MH900427604 are that the legal chemicals used to mimic the psychotropic effects of the real drug often create a psychosis; that is, they facilitate the onset or worsening of existing psychiatric disorders and therefore can produce enhanced hallucinations, delusions, violence and impaired insight. So anyone with a predisposition to a psychotic episode could be pushed over the edge by using these legal alternatives.

When a product is designed to mimic the effects of an illegal drug but is made with legal ingredients, the DEA must create a specific law to make that product illegal. Until that happens, the drug is considered “unofficial but legal” in many jurisdictions. But, as soon as the DEA outlaws a specific drug, a new variation is often designed and marketed as the next big thrill.

Statistics show that there’s a growing parallel market, called the grey market, for these alternatives to illegal drugs, and as soon as their use is made illegal new ones become available. The DEA has identified over 200 such new substances in the last five years alone.

It would seem possible to stem their growth by heightened laws and enforcement, but MH900439326I continue to wonder if a more prudent approach would be public education starting at an early age regarding the dangers of using these “pop up drugs” ~

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

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Foods Can Kill

I often write about poisons and toxins that kill, but what better way to kill someone than with a substance that’s lethal but not so easy to detect.

Such scenes make for good fiction reading, but a devastating reality is the factMH900411701 that normal foods can also kill.

Reports of contaminated foods being recalled because they contain lethal bacteria are in the news often when people become ill after consuming them. However, there’s another side to the story of lethal foods.

Food allergies cause minor, and sometimes severe or deadly, allergic reactions. In fact, the statistics are staggering. Food allergies affect over 15 million Americans, and every three minutes a food allergy sends an American citizen to the emergency room.

One in 13 children are included in this category—roughly two in an average American classroom—and nearly 40% of these children have already experienced a life-threatening food reaction, called anaphylaxis.

That means the reaction to the offending food caused a rapidly progressing allergic reaction that, if left untreated, would likely lead to death. The symptoms include rash development, a weak and rapid heartbeat, plummeting blood pressure, swelling in the oral mucosa, and a lethal closure of the airways.

Researchers tell us that the numbers of people with food allergies are increasing at a significant rate—an 18% jump in the decade between 1997 and 2007—and that peanut allergies have tripled in recent years.

MH900177951Regarding the rapid increase in peanut allergies, scientists theorize that roasted peanuts may be part of the problem. In other countries with lower rates of peanut allergies, peanuts are often boiled and children in those countries begin consuming the ground-up food at an early age—at a few months old rather than at three or four years old, like in America.

There are injections that can be given to desensitize a person to most environmentalMH900308894 allergies—like cedar, oak, dog, cat, etc. But, like many insect allergies, there are no desensitizing injections that are available for food allergies.

Presently, studies are being conducted with children who are highly allergic to specific foods. Small quantities of the offending food are introduced, with progressively larger portions under controlled conditions, in an attempt to desensitize the child to the severe allergy. Although peanut allergies tend to be lifelong, there has been hopeful success in desensitizing children who develop allergic reactions after eating peanuts or peanut products. More good news is that about 20% of children with peanut allergies eventually outgrow them.

Besides peanuts, some of the more common causes of severe food allergies include shellfish, wheat, soy, milk and eggs.

Scientists don’t have definitive answers for why this spike is happening, but there are some viable theories. As America continues to become a “cleaner society”, our children are not exposed to the irritants that older generations encountered and adapted to as they progressed through childhood.

In 2012 a new organization was established to address the need for a cure of lethal food allergies. The organization is called Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) and it was created from a merger between the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI). FARE combines the expertise of FAAN’s food allergy information resources and programs with FAI’s large private source of funding for food allergy research.

The focus of FARE is increased awareness of this growing problem and the need for better education regarding the impact of food allergies. But, by combining advocacy at all levels of government with world-class research to advance treatment options, the evolution into finding cure options can begin.

Having lived through a severe and almost lethal allergic medication reaction when I was a child, I have personal knowledge that anaphylaxis is a frightening experience. It’s one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Still a FamilyWhen a severe food allergy leads to anaphylaxis in a child, the entire family is impacted. The best prevention is knowledge and preparation. To that end, every parent should go to Anaphylaxis 101 for a short education in food allergies, what symptoms to look for and what to do if a severe reaction should occur.

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

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Are Antagonists Also Anti-Heroes?

The other day a person whom I admire posed an interesting question to me? What is the difference between an antagonist and an antihero?

I have to admit that I paused a good while to consider my answer before spouting something rather lame—suggesting correctly that I needed to refresh my memory that there was even ANY difference between the two types of characters. I will use the word “hero” here generically, obviously referencing either a male hero or a female heroine. In this day and age of equality, actors and heroes are either male or female.

Fiction stories with clear protagonists and antagonists are simple to Antagonistfollow and keep readers grounded as to which side each is on. The protagonist is the hero, the main character, the advocate or champion of a particular cause or ideal. The antagonist is the villain, the adversarial character to the hero, the one who actively opposes or is hostile to the hero and his or her cause.

But for thousands of years, dramas have never been that simple—even inGreek Drama Ancient Greece, simple was boring! Characters were and are complex with good and bad traits, and it’s that complexity of character and personality that draws the reader, or draws in the viewer in the case of television or film, into the story to connect with the characters.

Enter the Antihero!! This individual is often described as one whose ideals are contrary to the protagonist. However, that also is the basic definition of an antagonist. So what makes one character an antagonist (the villain) and another an antihero, often a leading character who gains considerable sympathy and admiration from the reader or viewer?

Consider this! The villain or antagonist is always in opposition to the protagonist. This character actively opposes or is hostile to the hero, although the antagonist may not necessarily be mean or a bad person.

The antihero, on the other hand, can be initially antagonistic but who evolves over time to be a protagonist. The antihero may have ideals contrary to the protagonist, but ultimately gives in to the goals and desires of the hero. Antiheroes go through mental, and maybe spiritual, conflicts within themselves and this fatal flaw impacts the decisions they make. Often the antihero teams up with the protagonist, not at all costs, but possibly to get some personal reward—doing the right thing for personal reasons rather than for the greater good.

AntiheroExamples of antiheroes would include Wolverine from the X-Men, Walter White from Breaking Bad, Conan the Barbarian, and Severus Snape from Harry Potter. All of these characters differ from an antagonist because they are notable figures conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities but who ultimately decide to do the right thing. An antagonist (the villain) never decides to do the right thing and is usually (hopefully) defeated by the end of the story.

The antagonist is often the most disliked character in the story—the fly inConflicted Character the ointment, so to speak—but the antihero is the character that elicits sympathy and admiration from readers and viewers because they connect with antiheroes on a more personal level since antiheroes are conflicted characters with tragic flaws, as most of us are in real life from time to time.

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

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