Talk to me about DMSO please.
December 17, 2010 7:39 PM   Subscribe

My vet gave me a sample of 99.9% DMSO for my dog's back pain issues. I had never heard of the stuff and was totally fascinated by what I read while researching it. Is there a plot of some kind to keep it criminally underused?

I have pseudo gout and when I get flareups the pain is quite horrendous. Has anybody used this stuff as a topical analgesic either alone or with medicine crushed into it? I gathered from my reading that the primary wonder of it is it's ability to be quickly and totally absorbed into the skin. It seems like it would be a no brainer to crush up a Tramadol or something, add it to the cream and rub it on the knee. Or do medicines like that have to go to the brain first?
posted by Pennyblack to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Be careful with is a powerful solvent which means it will help anything that comes into contact with your skin absorb through it. I've heard stories of people having bad reactions to the dye from their clothing and other things that would normally never cross the skin barrier going through after they used DMSO.
posted by emd3737 at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

IANAD. It's really not a good idea to experiment with medications, especially medications that are also powerful solvents. I would be surprised if the physician who diagnosed your pain doesn't have a laundry list of things (things which are manufactured, dispensed, and supposed to be applied with the requisite degree of purity) to try before using DMSO.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:02 PM on December 17, 2010

IANAD, but my mom used DMSO in the 80s to treat pain using an injury, and the pharmacist who sold it to her said to use it sparingly (she put it on with a fine paintbrush) and to make sure you have NO lotions or other cosmetics on your skin. It eased the pain, but it also ate right through the finish on the dining room table when she spilled the bottle. So will nail polish remover, of course.
posted by Rula Lenska at 8:06 PM on December 17, 2010

I'd be very careful, as I think the potential for negative side effects is huge. Even if you don't have an unintended bad reaction to the DMSO, it will give you a seriously horrible taste in your mouth, and it will probably make you smell like creamed corn and garlic.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:09 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consider the vodka enema.

Vodka, it is good stuff, yes? Oh, and the enema, it will get into your bloodstream more quickly than through the other end of the alimentary canal. Seems like a handstand, a funnel, and a really close friend would make this a no-brainer.

The trouble is that you really don't want that stuff to hit your bloodstream that quickly. It's a Bad Idea. It can be a lethal idea.

Similarly, many medications are delivered in a form that comes with the expectation that they'll be heading into your stomach, which would filter out fillers and there would be a nice dosage level curved out just so. You're bypassing all of that. You're hauling all of it right into your system.

Note: I have done some stupid things with DMSO.
posted by adipocere at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

It is used topically on horses for a variety of things but you have to be really careful because it can cause chemical burns. I've never seen a horse with active blisters from it but I have seen enough scarred legs to be mildly afraid of the stuff. The few times I have needed to use it on my own horses, I have been very careful to wear gloves. I know nothing about the use of DMSO in humans, but I am not surprised that it isn't common.

FWIW, I only know of the burns on horses happening when a wrap was applied after the DMSO to create heat, but the stuff still scares me a bit.
posted by horses, of courses at 8:50 PM on December 17, 2010

Under no circumstances should you try to treat your pseudogout with DMSO!

I found a 2008 article saying that DMSO promotes the formation of a substance (hydroxyapatite) which calcium pyrophosphate (the stuff that is being deposited in your joints and causing you all these problems) inhibits the formation of.

I couldn't figure out how the feedback loop arrows might be pointing in all this, but a worst case scenario is that your body is producing excess calcium pyrophosphate specifically to inhibit the formation of hydroxyapatite (HA) in the joints, and that taking DMSO would promote HA formation, which your body would then respond to by producing even more calcium pyrophosphate, thereby making you much worse.

That's way too much of a risk to take without better understanding.
posted by jamjam at 9:01 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

i don't know the actual effects of DMSO on the gout, but I second or third or whatever the idea that it allows entry into the skin of substances which would never make it otherwise.

it is also really good at dissolving just about anything you can think of -- we use it in the lab for things whose solubility we're not sure about -- usually a good bet they'll dissolve in DMSO.

so you have a really good potential for pulling in whatever is sitting on your skin and currently being kept out, and i would also wonder about what the other 0.1% is in the 99.9% DMSO...i've seen accounts of people saying it can help with gout, but i would see a doctor and get it prescribed in the correct grade and with proper instruction of how to prepare the skin for it.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:21 PM on December 17, 2010

Horse people use it quite a bit, even though they shouldn't, because it's an incredibly effective anti inflammatory on it's own. My vet always said that if she had a traumatic brain injury she would want to be hooked up to a DMSO IV stat, but that it wouldn't happen because its not legal to use on humans. They do use it IV on animals when they have major inflammation that needs to be brought under control fast (snake bite, brain swelling) and it's extremely effective. I've seen it done many times.

Its also pretty dangerous as noted above because of the universal solvent properties and yes it has been used by drug addicts to get stuff into their system. In college I worked in a store that sold it and we had the narcotics division come down and ask us about it when people first started doing that. I never personally saw anyone purchase it for what I thought would be that purpose but they said it was happening. It has an incredibly distinctive garlicky odor so I'm sure they knew what they were talking about.
posted by fshgrl at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2010

My father's friend bought one of those DMSO books back in the early 80s so I did read a bit about it and have used it on myself. It was quite an underground fad back then, kind of like the colloidal silver craze we have now. Most health claims should be treated with a grain of salt. It's not all that dangerous. Granted I don't use it regularly (probably every 2 years or so for burns) but I don't think all the breathless warnings are warranted. There would likely be a pile of corpses and a federal ban on the substance if it was that dangerous. If drug users were using it as an alternative to the needle, you can bet it would be banned.

If you do decide to experiment with it, I'd advice not using it at full strength as that kinda burns a bit (I use 60%) and be ready for an odd taste in your mouth. Don't put DMSO in the fridge as it will crystalize. And you should ask your doctor, of course.
posted by chairface at 9:59 PM on December 17, 2010

I found another interesting page which I think suggests strongly that the calcium pyrophosphate which causes pseudogout is in fact produced to help prevent osteoarthritis and age related joint degeneration associated with hydroxyapatite:

Calcium hydroxyapatite is the primary mineral of bone and teeth. Abnormal accumulation of this can occur in areas of tissue damage , in hypercalcemic or hyperparathyroid states, in chronic renal failure, hyperphosphatemia and in certain conditions of unknown cause.

Hydroxyapatite may be released from exposed bone and cause the acute synovitis occasionally seen in chronic stable osteoarthritis. Hydroxyapatite deposition is also an important factor in an extremely destructive chronic arthropathy of the elderly that occurs most often in knees and shoulder.

DTMFDMSO (carefully, not getting any on your skin).
posted by jamjam at 10:11 PM on December 17, 2010

I might have known someone about 10 years ago that got a bottle of the stuff for drug experimentation.

I also might know that if you use this stuff, say, and get some on your bare hand - then touch a doorknob that's made of, say, metal - you could absorb things like copper directly into your bloodstream. I might've taken someone to the emergency room for this kind of stupidity; I would never EVER do something this stupid or crazy, but it is the kind of thing that you could use to cause significant harm to others, either on purpose or accidentally, because if you rub it on your skin or something that's frequently touched by bare skin, icky things can and will leach directly into your bloodstream if you touch something harmful directly afterward... like fingernail polish, paint, gardening and touching something slightly poisonous, etc.

You can VERY VERY EASILY POISON YOURSELF ACCIDENTALLY AND POSSIBLY DIE experimenting with this stuff. It must be disposed of incredibly carefully, i.e. the same way you would with a broken traditional thermometer that's leaking mercury or hiv-infected needles.

Bear in mind there's a reason it's not a traditionally used drug/topical solution for humans; the person I might have known used it to ingest DMT without smoking it, IIRC, because he had a very severe lung infection at the time and was unwilling to stop doing/ingesting drugs while he was sick and on antibiotics. He might also have traveled with it to ingest drugs without being detected on job sites. That's all I've got to offer from sort-of-firsthand experience, except to say that even touching the bottle it was in made me super-effing-nervous (only dark glass bottles, apparently, because this stuff eats through most other containers as it's a powerful solvent).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:38 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

DMSO is used in humans in the cryopreservation of stem cells for transplant. It makes people kind of stink for a while after the cells are thawed and infused.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:04 AM on December 18, 2010

I also had a family member who was a horse person and used this stuff for all kinds of things back in the 80's. Sample of one, of course, but beginning then she began to have all manner of oddball health problems that "the doctors couldn't explain".

Also: most medicines have to go through the GI tract and then get worked on by the liver. I wouldn't do that with tramadol.
posted by gjc at 8:21 AM on December 18, 2010

I have been very careful to wear gloves. I know nothing about the use of DMSO in humans, but I am not surprised that it isn't common.

Wearing gloves - unless they're pretty thick or neoprene or butyl-based - won't do much if you're in extended contact with the stuff; DMSO goes through the most common sorts of gloves (thin latex and nitrile) pretty quickly too.

I've used it in lab with various sorts of compounds. While it can be very useful as a solvent, I often double-glove if I'm working with much of it because hey, why risk exposure? Even reasonably benign chemicals become markedly less good when carried swiftly through your skin by DMSO; things that are somewhat hazardous (and that includes many medications) become even more so - particularly when they're ones that are meant to be ingested. I would really, really avoid crushing up your meds, mixing them with DMSO, and rubbing the mixture onto your joints; you have no idea what dose you'll be getting and how fast it'll get into your bloodstream (or whether it was supposed to be metabolized before hitting your bloodstream.)

There would likely be a pile of corpses and a federal ban on the substance if it was that dangerous.

There are plenty of things that are dangerous yet not federally banned. DMSO is not something you find in everyone's medicine cabinet, which limits the number of people likely to be exposed to it. And yes, under ideal conditions - used alone and in small amounts, with the application area protected from contact with other things - it's not crazily dangerous. However, given all the (much more dangerous) chemicals you can find in the garage or the art supply store or the hardware store or under your kitchen sink, why should DMSO's availability be a guarantee of its safety - particularly when used improperly or incautiously by people who don't really understand what it does?
posted by ubersturm at 10:11 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consider the vodka enema...

And yet, I never had. It had literally never occured to me to shove alcohol up my arse, even in my hardest drinking days. I now bitterly regret they have passed me by.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:48 PM on December 18, 2010

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