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Wax, Or Is It Wane?: A New Form Of Marijuana Is On The Scene

Wax

Wax, Butter, Honeycomb. Sounds so innocent. But regardless of what it’s called, this is a new and powerful Mary Jane that makes smoking a joint seem almost pedestrian. Easily hidden, easily used, and its effects can last all day.

It looks like lip balm—-or wax—-thus the moniker—but contains very high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Oh yeah, an instructions for making it can be found on the internet.

What will the think of next?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Poisons & Drugs

 

Q and A: Will Ingestion of Bee Venom Kill Someone Who Is Allergic to Bees?

Q: If a person is allergic to bee venom and the venom is ingested, would the person be likely to die? Would the venom show up on a tox screen at autopsy?

Bee-apis

A: Bee venom is a protein toxin and would be digested by the acids in the stomach if swallowed. And once digested it would not likely cause an allergic reaction. However, an allergic reaction would happen once the venom contacted the buccal mucosa—big word for the lining of the mouth. This could cause an anaphylactic reaction and kill the victim.

Anaphylaxis is a rapid allergic reaction to some antigen. These antigens are typically foods, drugs, or insect venoms. Common foods are peanuts and shellfish; common drugs are penicillin and iodine, which is found in many radiographic dyes; and common insects are bees as in your story. There a myriad other foods, drugs, and bugs that can cause anaphylaxis in the allergic person.

This rapid immune (or allergic) reaction involves antigens (the food, drug, the bee venom, etc.) and antibodies, which are manufactured by the body and react to the specific antigen that they are directed against. This reaction is a critical part of our defense against bacteria and viruses. The body recognizes the antigen (virus, let’s say) as foreign and builds antibodies that will recognize and attach to the virus. This reaction attracts white blood cells (WBCs), which release chemicals that kill or harm the virus, which is then consumed by the WBCs and destroyed.  This process is essential for each of us to survive in our bacteria and virus-filled world.

But, in allergic individuals, this reaction is rapid and massive and causes a release of large amounts of the chemicals from the WBCs and it is these chemicals that cause the problems. They cause dilatation (opening up) of the blood vessels, which leads to a drop in blood pressure (BP) and shock. They cause the bronchial tubes (airways) to constrict (narrow severely), which leads to shortness of breath, wheezing, and cough. This is basically a severe asthmatic attack and prevents adequate air intake and the oxygen level in the blood drops rapidly. The chemicals also cause what is known as capillary leak. This means that the tiny microscopic blood vessels in the tissues begin to leak fluids into the tissues. This leads to swelling and various skin lesions such as a red rash, hives (actually these are called bullae and are fluid-filled, blister-like areas), and what are called wheel-and-flare lesions (pale areas surrounded by a reddish ring). These are also called Target Lesions because they look like targets with a pale center and red ring.

In the lungs this capillary leaking causes swelling of the airways, which along with the constriction of the airways, prevents air intake. In the tissues it causes swelling of the hands, face, eyes, and lips. The net result of an anaphylactic reaction is a dramatic fall in BP, severe wheezing, swelling and hives, shock (basically respiratory and cardiac failure), and death.

Usually anaphylaxis onsets within minutes (10 to 20) after contact with the chemical, but sometimes, particularly with ingested foods, it may be delayed for hours—even up to 24 hours. With a bee sting it would begin in a matter of minutes. Bee venom in the mouth might take only a few minutes to instigate the reaction.

Your victim would suffer swelling of the tongue and face—particularly of the lips and around the eyes—as well as swelling of his hands. Hives and wheel-and-flare lesions would pop out over the skin. He would begin to gasp for breath and develop progressively louder wheezing. As the oxygen content of his blood began to drop he would appear bluish around his lips, ears, fingers, and toes. This would progress until his skin was dusky blue. He would sweat, weaken, and finally when his BP dropped far enough would lose consciousness, lapse into a coma and die. Unless treatment was swift and effect that is.

Untreated anaphylaxis leads to shock and death in anywhere from a very few minutes to an hour or more, depending upon the severity of the reaction and the overall health of the victim. Treatment consists of blood pressure (BP) and respiratory support, while giving drugs that counter the allergic reaction. BP support may come from intravenous (IV) drips of drugs called vasopressors. The most common would be Dopamine, Dobutamine, epinephrine, and neosynephrine. Respiratory support may require the placement of an endotracheal (ET) tube and artificial ventilation. The victim would then be given epinephrine IV or subcutaneously (SubQ) and IV Benadryl and steroids. Common steroids would be Medrol, Solumedrol, and Decadron. These drugs work at different areas of the overall allergic reaction and reverse many of its consequences. The victim could survive with these interventions. Or not. Your call.

If you decide that your victim will die, then at autopsy, the findings are non-specific. That is, they are not absolutely diagnostic that an anaphylactic reaction occurred. The ME would expect to find swelling of the throat and airways and perhaps fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and maybe some bleeding in the lungs. He may also find some congestion of the internal organs such as the liver. He must however couple these findings with a history of the individual having eaten a certain food, having ingested or being given a certain drug, or having receives an insect bite or sting and then developing symptoms and signs consistent with anaphylaxis. And in the case of insects, such as the bee you are using, he may be able to find antibodies to the insect’s venom in the victim’s blood. Maybe not. So you can have it either way—yes he finds the antibodies or no he doesn’t.

Originally published in the October, 2014 issue of Suspense Magazine

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Medical Issues, Poisons & Drugs, Q&A

 

Is There A Genetic Basis For Violence?

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Is there a genetic make up that leads people to commit violent acts? Probably. Is it a simple “if this then that” connection? Not likely. But we are each a product of our genetic make up and our environment. That includes everything from medical issues such as heart disease and diabetes, to success in the arts such as music and writing, to our basic personality and the way we deal with others.

New research suggests that the elusive “warrior gene” might exist and it might result from defects in two genes: The MAOI gene and a variant of the cadherin 13 (CDH 13) gene.

Wish it were that simple but this is interesting research.

Here are few articles on this research:

BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29760212

Telegraph UK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/11192643/Violence-genes-may-be-responsible-for-one-in-10-serious-crimes.html

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/two-genes-found-linked-to-tendency-for-violent-crime-9824061.html

Also, I posted on this back in June, 2010:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/dangerous-dna-the-warrior-gene/

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

Fingerprint Lifting in Adverse Conditions

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Adverse. environmental conditions are there bane of forensic investigators. Heat, cold, humidity, rain, snow, you name it, can alter, damage, and destroy corpses, trace evidence, blood and other bodily fluids, DNA, and, of course, fingerprints. It requires tricks of the trade to sniff out the evidence under such circumstances.

Here is an interesting article on handling fingerprints when the day isn’t sunny and bright.

 

 

 

 

Wild Pigs Are Taking Over

FERAL HOGS--DO NOT MESS WITH THESE GUYS

FERAL HOGS–DO NOT MESS WITH THESE GUYS

 

Pigs are often depicted as cute little curly-tailed pets or as cartoon characters. Harmless and all-around pleasant. The truth is another matter.

Feral pigs are dangerous and destructive. They are omnivores, meaning they will eat virtually anything. They are strong, fast, aggressive, and intelligent. Intelligent on the level of dogs and horses. Remember Animal Farm? The pigs ended up in charge.

Pigs often escape from farms and head into the woods, where they are uniquely equipped to not only survive but thrive. Food materials are everywhere for the escapees and they have few enemies. But they do have friends. Other escaped pigs.

When these feral creatures form into packs they become destructive and dangerous. They can decimate crops, literally uprooting everything. They can destroy a chicken coop, by barging in and consuming literally hundreds of chickens. They can kill lambs and calves and small deer. Even humans in rare cases.

Growing up in the South, I remember several times where feral packs began to wreak havoc with local farmers. When such situations became intolerable, the local farmers would “form a pack” of there own and hunt down and kill as many of the problem pigs as possible.

According to a recent Scientific American article, the problem still exists, is indeed growing, and is no longer confined to the South.

I used this phenomenon in one of my Dub Walker thrillers HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL. Feral pigs can dig and scratch and claw and will eat anything—-even a buried body.

 

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From Hot Lights, Cold Steel:

They reached a clearing where three other uniforms stood near a rectangle of gouged away earth. The first thing T-Tommy saw was the gnawed remains of a shoulder, bone and gristle exposed, flesh shredded. It was framed by torn plastic sheeting. As he moved closer, he saw a leg protruding through another rip in the plastic. Like the shoulder, large chunks of flesh were missing, the bones clearly visible. Attached to the damaged leg was a bare foot, nails painted purple, not the bright red polish he had seen minutes earlier. Two bodies or a fashion statement? 

The decay odor was weak, and though flies buzzed around the shredded flesh, he saw no maggots. The corpse hadn’t been dead long. He backed away and watched as the evidence team went to work.

Forty-five minutes later, Sidau and his crime lab crew had photographed the site, completed a grid walk of the immediate area for other evidence, and collected what they could find. The coroner’s techs then excavated the grave, finding two nude bodies. Young girls. Early twenties, give or take. Each had been wrapped in plastic. They removed them from the grave and sliced open the wrapping, careful to keep each corpse cupped within its sheeting, preserving any trace evidence. One of the bodies belonged to the arm, the other to the leg.

“Pigs,” the tech said.

“You sure?” T-Tommy asked.

He nodded. “Seen it before. Drummond and Cooksey can tell us more, but that’s what it’ll be.”

“There was a pack near here a couple of months ago,” Stone said. “Wiped out a chicken coop and killed a few calves. The local farmers put together a hunting party. Killed six of them. Must have been more.”

“How’d you know that?”

“My uncle was one of the hunters.”

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Cool & Odd-Mostly Odd, Writing

 

Do the Phases of the Moon Alter Sleep Patterns and Behavior?

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The full moon makes people crazy. Don’t believe it? Ask any Emergency Room MD or nurse. Full moons always bring out the crazies and the most bizarre circumstances. Common things present in odd fashions; odd things become downright bizarre. Can’t prove that scientifically but experience suggest it’s a fact.

During my medical training at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, you could count on having a busy and eventful day (and night) during the full moon. If you added that to a payday weekend, you had a recipe for chaos. The “Friday-night Knife and Gun Club” was especially busy on pay weekends and under full moons.

Probably has to do with tidal shifts in the brain or something like that. Excess water in your brain pan is never a good thing.

One example is The Bean. He’s our Bengal cat. Nocturnal and noisy by nature, he often gets completely out of hand around the full moon. We call it Moon Bean.

The Bean

The Bean

Now research done at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden suggests that the cycles of the moon alter sleep patterns. If so, these cycles might also alter behavior. Poor sleep leads to poor decisions, labile emotions, altered perceptions (see previous post), reduced hand-eye coordination, diminished attention, and these can in turn lead to mistakes—-many of which will land you in the ER. Never a good place to be.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

Does Lack of Sound Sleep Alter Memories And Perceptions?

alarm-clock

Ever had a dream so vivid that it seemed too real to be a dream? Or awakened all fuzzy headed after a night of fractured sleep? So fuzzy that you couldn’t remember where the coffee maker was? Of course you have. We all have.

But do altered sleep patterns effect your perception of reality? Cause a blurring of the boundary between dreams and real life? Create false memories? Maybe so.

A recent article by Art Markman, MD in Psychology Today discusses a study jointly done by the University of California, Irvine and Michigan State University where these relationships were explored. The study findings suggest that the sleep-deprived brain is not to be trusted.

Though no longer with us, The Nut had no such sleep or memory problems

Though no longer with us, The Nut had no such sleep or memory problems

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Police Procedure

 
 
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