Thursday, November 29, 2018

Potassium Chloride: Poisoning People for Fun and Profit--Part 38.

Potassium Chloride (KCl) is commonly known as a dietary supplement. It’s one of those “electrolytes” you’re always hearing about. You can find it in your Gatorade.
KCl occurs naturally in the mineral Sylvite

It is most widely used in fertilizer (called potash). It’s also used in animal feed, glassmaking, medicines, and foods like the “Mrs. Dash” line of seasonings. It has the appearance and taste of table salt (sodium chloride NaCl.)

But it can also kill. In large doses, it causes cardiac arrest. Some states in the U.S. use it as the third drug in the "three drug cocktail" for execution by lethal injection.

It occurs naturally as the mineral sylvite and in combination with sodium chloride as sylvinite.

Potassium Chloride as a Dietary Supplement.

Potassium is necessary for the normal function of our hearts, muscles, kidneys, nerves, and digestive systems. Most people get enough potassium if they eat a healthy diet.

salt-free seasoning uses KCl

But a number of things can deplete potassium, which is water soluble. Diuretics, high blood pressure medications like Lasix, kidney disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, and a number of other medical issues can create the need for a potassium supplement.

Unfortunately, some people think that because it’s a supplement sold over the counter, it must be harmless. But as with many supplements, it can be dangerous—even lethal—at high doses. Pregnant women are advised not to take potassium.

Potassium Chloride Overdose

An excess of potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia. A dose that’s not high enough to kill outright can cause kidney failure. Even a mild overdose of can cause distress. Here are some signs of an overdose:

  • Slow or irregular heartbeat 
  • Seizures 
  • Shallow breathing 
  • Mental confusion 
  • Lightheadedness or feeling you are about to faint 
  • Leg and arm weakness 
  • Tingling, prickling, or burning sensation in extremities 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Lethargy 
  • Cold, pale skin 

Death by Potassium Chloride (Hyperkalemia)

Hyperkalemia caused by disease or oral ingestion first triggers kidney failure in patients and after that, death can be very quick, even in otherwise healthy patients.

But when KCl is injected, it goes right to the heart and usually kills within 10 minutes.

It’s the ability to kill rapidly that has made KCl one of the ingredients used in some parts of the U.S. for execution by lethal injection. It causes cardiac arrest after the first two drugs have been injected to decrease pain and cause paralysis. Many people consider this method of execution to be inhumane, and other methods are being introduced.

But death from oral potassium overdose is rare. A number of treatments can stop the effects before they kill if the victim gets to the hospital quickly. Unfortunately, the patient’s system may be compromised and they may die several weeks later.

But there are cases of death from oral ingestion of KCl. In the US in the 1970s, A 32-year-old woman became hypokalemic from taking potassium supplements with her liquid protein diet (a big fad in the mid-20th century, starting with the Metrecal craze of the 1960s.)

This woman had been told that if she felt weak from the diet, all she needed was to take a potassium pill. Thinking they were harmless, and feeling weak from starvation, she kept popping the pills. She first developed diarrhea, and was told to stop taking the potassium. But it was too late. She was found dead the next day. An autopsy showed that she had taken 47 tablets of potassium chloride.

So, swallowing 47 tablets of KCl can kill, apparently. But if you’re writing a mystery where KCl is the murder weapon, injection would be the surest method for your killer.

What about you? Have you heard any stories of potassium chloride used as a murder weapon? 

Coming in December! Googling Old Boyfriends: Camilla Randall Mystery #7

“Okay, ’fess up.” Mickie McCormack’s eyes twinkled as she plunked a book on the counter. “If you’re that distracted by the Internet you’re either looking at porn or you’re Googling old boyfriends.”

I felt my cheeks heat up.

“Um, I’m guilty of the latter, I’m afraid. I’ve just run into an old boyfriend and he’s invited me to dinner, but…”

The bell on the door jingled.

There he was. Captain Maverick Jesus Zukowski, six foot, three inches of tall, dark, and the-one-who-got-away.

The Camilla Randall mysteries are a laugh-out-loud mashup of crime fiction, rom-com, and satire. Morro Bay bookshop owner Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem, and Mr. Wrong. But she always solves the case in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

In this stand-alone episode, Camilla befriends socialite Mickie McCormack  a sexy, mysterious older woman who’s going through a painful divorce. Mickie has been Googling her old boyfriends to reconnect and “remember who she used to be.”

Unfortunately every one of those boyfriends soon ends up dead.

Is the serial killer Camilla’s old boyfriend Dr. Bob? Or one of Mickie’s old boyfriends? And can Camilla’s old boyfriend Captain Rick protect her and her cat Buckingham from being fed to the sharks before she solves the mystery?

Here's a list of all the poisons in this series


Friday, October 26, 2018

Dear Abby and The Myth of Poisoned Halloween Candy

Lots of folklore feeds our fears of apples. Snow White got poisoned with one. And Greek legend blames the entire Trojan war on an apple: the "Golden Apple of Discord" thrown at three goddesses by Eris, the goddess of discord. 
Apples get a bad rap

But apples have got a bad rap. And it's unlikely you'll ever find one hiding a razor blade or a sewing needle, in spite of all the horror stories your mom told you when you went out trick-or-treating. 

There are lots of things to be afraid of on Halloween. Your kid getting hit by a car while dressed in black as a ninja, a witch, or Severus Snape. Or somebody kidnapping your black kitty and doing him harm. Or somebody eating too much candy and throwing up on the newly shampooed carpet. 

But poisoned candy isn't one of them.  

All of that is bogus fear-mongering. A lot of the fear was mongered by the advice columnist siblings Dear Abby and Ann Landers. 

Dear Abby and Ann Landers Spread the Panic

According to Smithsonian magazine, on October 31, 1983, advice columnist "Dear Abby" (the late Abigail Van Buren) published a column called "A Night of Treats, not Tricks." In that column, she warned her readers that, on Halloween, "somebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade."

No child has been poisoned by a stranger's Halloween candy

Twelve years later, Dear Abby's sister, advice columnist Ann Landers, also wrote a Halloween article in which she warned that "Twisted minds make Halloween a dangerous time," echoing that concern. She said, "In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy." She even stated flatly: "It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers." This made life difficult for candy companies all over the U.S.

And it turns out these "reports" were entirely bogus. 

Every so often something happens that stirs up the stories again. 

Abby may be forgiven for falling for the drama in 1983. The 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people were fresh in everybody's minds. So the idea of a crazed madman who wanted to kill random strangers was not far-fetched. It was easy to merge them with the myths that were already out there about crazed child murderers handing out tainted "treats" to the trick-or-treaters.

Some Poisonings That Didn't Happen

Here are some of the incidents that keep the myths alive, as reported by Snopes. 

In 1970, a boy went into a coma from a heroin overdose and heroin was found sprinkled on his Halloween candy.  It turned out he had got into his uncle's heroin stash and his family had sprinkled the heroin on the candy after the fact to protect the uncle.

In 1982 the police in Detroit announced a boy had been poisoned by cyanide in Halloween candy. But medical tests were inconclusive and later FDA tests of the candy turned up no contamination whatsoever. 

In 1990, a 7-year-old Santa Monica girl died of congenital heart failure while trick-or-treating. The police feared a mass random poisoning sent out an alert. Unfortunately the later retraction didn't travel anywhere near as far or wide as the initial false alarm. 

The Halloween Poisoning Sleuth, Dr. Joel Best

For decades, Joel Best a sociologist at the University of Delaware conducted a study of these stories. His findings: He never found a confirmed case of a stranger murdering a child with poisoned Halloween candy.

He did find one case of a father who murdered his own son with poisoned Halloween candy.

This was awful, but it was a one-off act of targeted murder.

In 1974, a sociopath named Ronald Clark O'Bryan took out a large life insurance policy on his 8 year old son Timothy a few days before Halloween. On Halloween, he put some cyanide into Timmy's Pixy Stix and got him to eat it before going to bed. He also poisoned some Pixy Stix he gave out to local trick or treaters, so it would look as if his son's murder was part of a random attack on local children.

Luckily none of the other children ate the candy, partly because of quick reaction from local police, and partly because Mr. Clark had resealed the Pixy Stix with staples that were too hard for a child to open.

Mr. Clark was executed in 1984, and maybe stories of his horrible deeds also sparked the rumors that prompted Dear Abby's misguided column.

Dr. Joel Best has tried hard over the years to destroy the poisoned Halloween candy myth, but he hasn't had much luck. "It's the old problem of trying to prove a negative," he says.

He says his favorite story is the one about the kid who brought a half-eaten candy bar to his parents and said, "I think there's ant poison on this." They had it checked and, sure enough, there was ant poison on it—significantly, on the end he hadn't bitten.

It later turned out the kid had put the ant poison on the candy himself. 

What about those Stories of Razor Blades and Pins in Apples?

These seem to be more of the same.

According to author Jack Santino, who's written a number of books on the history and folklore behind Halloween, "pins and needles" (and razor blade) rumors began to supplant "poisoned candy" rumors in the mid-1960s, and nearly the reports turned out to be hoaxes: 

He said, "more than 75 percent of reported cases involved no injury, and detailed followups…concluded that virtually all the reports were hoaxes concocted by the children or parents. Thus this legend type seems to have grown out of a tradition of ostensive hoaxes relying on an understood oral tradition, rather than on any core of authenticated incidents."

So poisoned candy is very much the stuff of fiction, but it has only the most tenuous attachment to fact. As writers, we'd do better to to write about poisoned chocolate Easter bunnies or Christmas candy canes and at least be creative about it.

What about you, readers? Did you believe these stories when you were a kid? Did your parents? Did your parents ban trick or treating because they were so afraid of mad poisoners? 

The first book in the Camilla comedy-mystery series is  99c

and all the Amazons internationally

Also available at Google Play,


It's available in paper at Amazon & Barnes and Noble 

A wild comic romp set at writers’ conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California. When a ghostwriter's plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with a crossdressing dominatrix to stop the killer—who may be a ghost—from striking again. Meanwhile, a hot LA cop named Maverick Jesus Zukowski just may steal her heart.

It's also available in Spanish on Amazon

Friday, September 28, 2018

Nicotine: Poisoning People for Fun and Profit—Part 37

Everybody knows smoking tobacco is dangerous. It causes lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and a myriad of other awful diseases.

The "Smoking Man" from the X-Files
But smoking tobacco kills slowly. If you wanted to kill somebody with cigarettes, a murderer would have to be patient to the point of pathology. 

However, smoking deaths aren’t caused by the nicotine in the tobacco. The body absorbs only about 1 mg of nicotine from smoking a cigarette (That’s a tenth or less of the nicotine actually contained in a cigarette.) It’s the other toxins in the cigarette smoke that do the smokers in, even though it’s nicotine that gets people addicted to the lethal things.

Full disclosure: I smoked for many years. I quit 30 years ago, with a bit of a slip in the early 2000's. But I still sometimes dream that I’m smoking. The last smoking dream I had was about a month ago. In the dream I was sneaking a cigarette outside in the dark and lit the filter end by mistake. It gave off a toxic stench and I stomped it out on the ground. I think that’s a good sign.

Nicotine is a Strong, Fast-Acting Poison

Nicotine rushes to the brain very fast and the body reacts immediately by secreting epinephrine—the same stuff the body naturally produces during times of fear, excitement, and stress.

This gives us a short but powerful adrenaline rush. Heart rate and blood pressure go up, along with the output of glucose. Respiratory rates skyrocket.
Jean Nicot de Villemain, godfather of nicotine

This means nicotine can kill in a matter of minutes. The lethal dose is 30-60 mg ( In comparison, it takes 70-200 mg of arsenic to kill.)

The International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS) says: "Nicotine is one of the most toxic of all poisons and has a rapid onset of action. Apart from local caustic actions, the target organs are the peripheral and central nervous systems."

Nicotine is a plant alkaloid named for a 16th century Frenchman named Jean Nicot de Villemain. He acquired tobacco plants and seeds from the Portuguese colony in Brazil and promoted their use during the 1560s. He managed to get the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum named after him.

Nicotine as a Murder Weapon.

The first documented occurrence of someone using nicotine as a weapon was the 1850 case of the Count and Countess de Bocarme of Belgium, who decided to murder her younger brother, Gustave Fougnies, when Gustave was about to inherit the family money and estate.

The Count was an amateur chemist who mysteriously amassed a large amount of tobacco in the summer of 1850. In November of that year, his young brother-in-law Gustave dropped dead after a dinner his sister had prepared. The couple announced the young man had suffered a fatal stroke.

But the servants were not convinced, especially since Gustave's face appeared to have been burned with a caustic substance.
Jen Servais Stas discovered a test for nicotine

Because of their barn had been full of those tobacco leaves, the police suspected that the couple might have poisoned Gustave with nicotine, but they had no test to prove it.

They knew that soaking tobacco and boiling down the extract could make a lethal poison, but they couldn't prove it. 

That's when Jean Servais Stas, a prominent Belgian chemist, decided to create a test for nicotine, known as the Stas-Otto method. 

Soon after, the Count and Countess were charged with murder.

More recently, in 2014, a man named Paul Curry was convicted in Orange County CA of murdering his wife Linda with nicotine—20 years before. It was such an unusual weapon that authorities took that long to build a case (and it would be another four years before he came to trial.)

The medical examiner found it suspicious that Linda, a nonsmoker, had high levels of nicotine in her blood. 

Then there was the half-million dollar life insurance policy Paul had received. 

But still, the police did not initially suspect foul play. 

However after careful examination of the medical evidence, Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of San Francisco Medical School determined that Linda Curry, first disabled with sleep medication, died within 20 to 30 minutes after being poisoned with nicotine.

There was only one person with her in that time frame—her husband.

Nicotine Poisoning is a Growing Problem in the Age of Vaping

Nicotine poisoning has become much more common since the invention of the e-cigarette. The liquid nicotine in one vaping cartridge contains enough poison to kill a child. Two or three could be lethal for a large adult.

Vape Liquid, or E-Juice, comes in different strengths, depending on the manufacturer. It can be as high as 36 mg or even 42 mg. And you can buy refills in convenient eye-dropper bottles. In flavors like berry, cherry and Candy King. Yum.

It only takes about 60 mg. of nicotine to kill the average-sized person. That would mean smoking 40 cigarettes at once, chewing 15 pieces of nicotine gum, wearing 4-5 patches… or ingesting just 2 doses of e-liquid. 

Swallowing e-juice can be fatal. Even getting it on your skin is dangerous. This liquid is highly toxic, but unfortunately, it's not highly regulated.  

Many Users Don’t Know the Perils of E-Juice

Unfortunately, the candy-flavored vape juice is a magnet for teens and tweens, whose ability to make rational decisions may not have entirely matured.

In researching the hazards of nicotine poisoning from vaping, I found a number of forums where teens discussed their concerns about poisoning. 

Some of their comments were hair-raising.

One young man was understandably worried because his vape pen had leaked and he’d swallowed some of the liquid. He wrote in the forum to ask for advice.

His charming fellow vapers called him a “pussy” and shamed him for worrying and told him not to call the poison hotline.

One vaper claimed he drank “e-juice” all the time with no ill effects. 

Another claimed to be immune to the caustic burns other humans get from the liquid. He bragged he’d felt nothing after a broken vape pen in his pocket leaked e-juice down his pants. He called the worried young man "a stupid hippy" for fearing the caustic poison. 

I wanted to jump in and tell the kid: If you listen to this troll, you'll burn off your face. Please be a "stupid hippy!"

Maybe the trolls were lying, or maybe they’d only had a drop or two of the liquid. (Although even a drop can burn most people’s skin.) 

It’s true they would have to drink at least 10 ml of vape juice to actually kill themselves. They might not even die from that amount, but if they survived, their heart and arteries would be permanently damaged.

If they're not lying, the Dumb and Dumberer folks in that forum aren’t long for this world.  The government is trying to put the brakes on the marketing of this stuff to teens, but they’re fighting an uphill battle.

$10 for a Lethal Dose of Liquid Nicotine.

Not only is vape juice easy to get, but there are many websites that tell you how to make your own vaping concoctions.

They link to sites where can buy liquid nicotine for the DYI e-juice for only about $10 for 60mg, the lethal dose. Very handy for those villains planning a budget murder (although you might want to swing for 2 bottles just to make sure.)

The only obstacle to the perfect nicotine murder is the taste. Apparently it’s awful. This is why e-juice is so heavily flavored.
Murder on a budget? 

There are also the tell-tale caustic burns around the mouth you'd have to explain away. Maybe in a murder mystery, the fictional victim could be shown eating a very hot pizza—you know the kind that seems cool enough on the top, but has that hot cheese underneath that burns the roof of your mouth. Well, that's a stretch...

Signs of Nicotine Poisoning

Early symptoms (15 minutes to an hour.)

  • Feeling nauseated 
  • Excessive watering of the mouth 
  • Trouble breathing 
  • Racing heartbeat 
  • Skyrocketing blood pressure 
  • Throbbing headache 
  • Blanched skin 
  • Dizzy, off-balance, or confused 

Late-phase symptoms ( 1-4 hours later.)

Shallow breathing
Slower heartbeat
Lower blood pressure
Feeling weak, slow reflexes, or unable to control muscles

When to Get Help for Nicotine Poisoning

In spite of what Dumb and Dumberer said in that forum, you want to call the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 right away if you suspect an overdose or when someone, especially a child or pet:

  • Swallows any type of tobacco or nicotine product 
  • Gets liquid nicotine in their eye 
  • Spills liquid nicotine on their skin 

And if the person who is poisoned can't wake up, has a hard time breathing, or has a seizure, call 911.

First Aid for Nicotine Poisoning

  • Don't try to make someone who's swallowed nicotine throw up or give them antacids to settle their stomach. 
  • Give them lots of water. 
  • Make sure their airway is clear. 
  • Rinse eyes splashed with nicotine well with a lot of warm water for at least 15 minutes. 
  • Where liquid nicotine has gotten onto skin, wash the area well with soap and water (either warm or cool) and rinse for at least 15 minutes.

 Did you know that nicotine was so readily available in lethal doses? Have you ever had nicotine poisoning? Were you ever addicted to the stupid stuff the way I was? 

Here's a list of all the poisons in this series




THE LADY OF THE LAKEWOOD DINER is a comedy that pokes fun at the myth of a Golden Age, making parallels between the Grail legend and the self-mythologizing of the Baby Boomer Generation.

Someone has shot aging bad-girl rocker Morgan Le Fay and threatens to finish the job. Is it fans of her legendary dead rock-god husband, Merlin? Or is the secret buried in her childhood hometown of Avalon, Maine?

Morgan's childhood best friend Dodie, the no-nonsense owner of a dilapidated diner, may be the only one who knows the dark secret that can save Morgan's life. And both women may find that love really is better the second time around. Think Beaches meets Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

"A page turning, easily readable, arrestingly honest novel which will keep you laughing at yourself. Who doesn't remember crashing on a mattress at a friend's apartment with the stereo blasting Iron Butterfly and no idea where you'll stay the next night? A cultural masterpiece for the discerning reader."...Kathleen Keena, author of Adolescent Depression, Outside/In

The Lady of the Lakewood Diner is only 99c until September 30th, 2018 at all the Amazons

Also available iTunesKoboNook and Books 2 Read

Friday, August 31, 2018

Googling Old Boyfriends

I don't have another poison episode this month, because I'm busy finishing up my latest Camilla Randall Mystery (#7) Googling Old Boyfriends. I'm sending it to my editor on Monday. 

It's scheduled to come out in December. Paperback in January. (And there will be a fun staged reading in Morro Bay with actress Mara Purl in February.)

And yes, there will be poisons involved.

Here's a taste:

“Okay, ’fess up.” Mickie McCormack startled me as she plunked a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty on my counter at the bookshop.
“If you’re that distracted by the Internet you’re either looking at porn or you’re Googling old boyfriends.”
Mickie’s brown eyes twinkled at me from behind Ralph Lauren tortoise shell frames.
I felt my cheeks heat up.
“Um, I’m guilty of the latter, I’m afraid. I’ve just run into an old boyfriend and he’s invited me to dinner, but…”
The bell on the door jingled.
There he was. Captain Maverick Jesus Zukowski of the L.A.P.D. Six foot, three inches of tall, dark, and the-one-who-got-away. 

No cover yet. I'm working on some ideas to give to the designer. I'm thinking of something like this:

Of course Buckingham will have to make an appearance.

As long as Oona Foster isn't there. Then he'll hide out until she's gone.

And here's Buckingham on the cover of his own book, which is only 99c right now on Amazon! 

SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: Camilla mystery #5

This comic novel—which takes its title from the most famous Shakespearean quote that Shakespeare never wrote—explores how easy it is to perpetrate a character assassination whether by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls.

It's a laugh-out-loud mashup of romantic comedy, crime fiction, and satire: Dorothy Parker meets Dorothy L. Sayers. Perennially down-and-out socialite Camilla Randall--a.k.a. "The Manners Doctor"--is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but she always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way. Usually with more than a little help from her gay best friend, Plantagenet Smith.

In this hilarious episode she makes the mistake of responding to an online review of one of her etiquette guides and sets off a chain of events that leads to arson, attempted rape and murder. 

Sample reviews:
"Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!"...Melodie Campbell, "Canada's Queen of Comedy."

"Both a comedic romance and a crime suspense thriller, it presents the 'Perils of Pauline' adventures of a modern author, Camilla, whose mad-cap follies are hugely entertaining. But the novel has a serious undertone of social comment. Even the craziest of its zanies have their counterparts in the real world and the author faithfully depicts their grim, and often deadly, sub-cultures behind a veneer of knockabout wit. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys romance, and crime suspense, with a lethally satiric edge." Dr. John Yeoman.

"Anne Allen's ability to weave throughout her stories a current social commentary easily and throughout the story amazes me. She does this without jeopardizing her plot or her characters' development."...
blogger Sherrey Meyer

So Much for Buckingham is available in ebook at all the Amazons,
And in paperback it is available at

And there's an Audiobook! It's narrated by CS Perryess and Anne R. Allen is available from 
Audible and iTunes

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sleeping Pills—Poisoning People for Fun and Profit #36.

Sleeping pills used to be a reliable way of putting nasty Great-Aunt Augusta out of your misery if you were a financially embarrassed heir who was afraid the old dear was about to change her will and leave all her millions to her pet hedgehog. 

"Flaming June" by Fredrick Lord Leighton
If she had a prescription for them, it would be tough for the police to tell a murder from an accidental overdose, so they came in very handy.

But sedatives have become much safer in recent years. The dangerous barbiturates of the late 19th and early 20th century have largely been supplanted by benzodiazepines. (The first benzodiazepine, Librium, was invented in 1955.)

In the 21st century the newer “Z-drugs” are usually the sleeping pills of choice.

Death from benzodiazepine or Z-drug overdoses alone isn’t common, but when they’re combined with alcohol, antidepressants, or opioids, there’s a much higher risk of overdose. And the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable to lethal overdoses.

So if Great-Aunt Augusta is suffering from a chronic ailment, that Ambien or Xanax she takes might work just as well as the old-fashioned phenobarbital or Seconal if you put a high dose in her evening snack. Especially if she enjoys a bit of a tipple before bed.


Zolpidem (Ambien), Eszopiclone (Lunesta) and, and zaleplon (Sonata) are non-benzodiazepine drugs used in the treatment of insomnia and commonly referred to as the “Z-drugs.” 

Z drugs are typically used to assist people who have a hard time falling asleep, rather than ones who wake frequently. They act on the central nervous system (CNS) and reduce heart rate (the number of times the heart beats per minute), and increase shallow breathing both of which are controlled by the CNS. 

They induce sleep but don’t treat anxiety. And they’re very short lived. They leave the body within an hour or two.

Poisoning somebody with Z-drugs would take rather a lot of pills. One Ambien tablet is usually 10 milligrams. 600 mg could kill somebody in fragile health, but 2,000 mg would be necessary to make sure the job was done.

An overdose of Lunesta can happen at approximately at about 270 mg. and it takes about 200mg. of Sonata. But people have been known to survive that dosage if alcohol isn’t involved.

But it’s good to note that any number of sleeping pills over the recommended dose can kill under the right circumstances. They shut down the respiratory center and people simply stop breathing.


Benzodiazepines (Librium, Ativan, Valium, Xanax) are named because of their actions on the benzodiazepine receptors located in the brain. They act in pretty much the same way as the Z-drugs, but they're less likely to affect other systems in the body.

They're also much more effective in treating anxiety.

Unfortunately they can be drugs of abuse, because it’s easy to build a tolerance for them. The FDA reported that in 2013, benzodiazepines were involved in 31% of the estimated 22,767 deaths from prescription drug overdose in the United States, usually caused by a combination of benzodiazepines with opioids.

Following an overdose of a benzodiazepine, symptoms kick in within 4 hours. Victims tend to appear drunk, with impaired balance, slurred speech, and uncontrolled muscle function. They also can show “paradoxical” symptoms like anxiety and aggression. Sometimes they’ll also suffer nausea and vomiting.


The old fashioned barbiturates like Nembutal, phenobarbital, and Seconal are still in use, although they're no longer prescribed as sedatives.

They're used for general anesthesia, epilepsy, acute migraines, and cluster headaches. Veterinarians use them for euthanasia of small animals.

And they’re still one of the most abused drugs around. In 2007, the Lancet listed them third in terms of physical harm, fourth in terms of social harm and fifth in dependence.

They are highly addictive and the patient can become addicted within a month. They are a commonly sought-after street drug, since they give a feeling of well-being.

During the first part of the 20th century – especially during the 1930s and 1940s – barbiturates were popular prescription “wonder” drugs, prescribed for everything from autism to epilepsy. It’s estimated that in 1939 over 2.2 million doses were sold in the US. By 1945, that number had nearly tripled. 

"Sleeping Beauty" by Victor Gabriel Gilbert

But the number of barbiturate prescriptions have decreased significantly since the 1970s. 

Death due to acute barbiturate poisoning typically occurs because of a stoppage in breathing. Like other CNS depressants, barbiturates suppress respiration. This is especially true – and especially hazardous – when they are taken in combination with other depressants like alcohol or opioids.

Symptoms of an overdose again mimic drunkenness: staggering, difficulty in thinking, slurred speech, faulty judgement, and drowsiness.

A lot of celebrities of the era died of barbiturate poisoning, either accidental or self-inflicted. Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Jimi Hendrix all died of barbiturate overdoses. So did columnist Dorothy Kilgallen—although a number of conspiracy theorists of the Nixon era suspected murder in her case.


Flumazenil (Romazicon) is a competitive benzodiazepine "receptor antagonist" that can be used as an antidote for both Z-drug and benzodiazepine overdose. But the drug is controversial since it can cause a number of dangerous side effects. 

Here's a list of all the poisons in this series


ONLY 99C!!!

GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY:  Camilla Mystery #1 

After her celebrity ex-husband’s ironic joke about her “kinky sex habits” is misquoted in a tabloid, New York etiquette columnist Camilla Randall’s life unravels in bad late night TV jokes.

Nearly broke and down to her last Hermes scarf, she accepts an invitation to a Z-list Writers’ Conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California, where, unfortunately, a cross-dressing dominatrix named Marva plies her trade by impersonating Camilla.

When a ghostwriter’s plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with Marva to stop the killer from striking again.

Ghostwriters in the Sky is available in e-book at all the Amazons iTunesGooglePlay  KoboInkteraScribd and NOOK.

It is available in paper at Amazon & Barnes and Noble