March 9, 2007
8:10 PM   Subscribe

How would I go about gradually building a resistance to a given poison?

I'm hoping this isn't considered too hypothetical, because it's something I'd actually like to learn to do—if only for a party trick. Mainly, I want to know if it's possible, and then if so, what steps to take to do it as safely as possible.

My first guess is that it would start with dilutions to almost 0 ppb. And that I will need to be prepared to deal with nausea, vomiting, sickness, and all sorts of discomfort. But I'd like some factual information before I actually pursue this endeavor.
posted by Eideteker to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: "I'm hoping this isn't considered too hypothetical" is a really bad sign.

 
Uh, what poison are you thinking about here?
posted by miss lynnster at 8:14 PM on March 9, 2007


Huh, aren't you a psych major? I mean, shouldn't you know something about pharmacology by now?

Anyway, I would imagine that different poisons vary greatly in how much you can adapt to them. No amount of "training" will help you survive ingesting Polonium 210, for example.

Still, for most poisons I doubt this is even remotely possible.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2007


Huh, aren't you a psych major?

That's psychiatry, not psychology.
posted by !Jim at 8:21 PM on March 9, 2007


Uh, what poison are you thinking about here?

Iocaine apparently (check the tags)....
posted by gomichild at 8:23 PM on March 9, 2007


Iocane powder?

note to self: do not challenge Eideteker to a battle of wits
posted by nonmyopicdave at 8:25 PM on March 9, 2007


In fact there is even a word, mithridatism, which means the phenomenon of partial immunity to poison acquired by taking small doses. Mithridatism was named after Mithridates the Great, King of Pontus from 120 B.C. to 63 B.C. One of the legends of Mithridates VI was that he was worried that someone might try and poison someone of his stature so he created a universal antidote consisting of opium and honey.

The opium and honey would weaken the poison enough that he could take a dose without it killing him and he would then slowly build up a tolerance. Ironically when Mithridates VI was finally defeated by Pompey and in danger of capture by Rome, he allegedly tried to attempt suicide by poisoning himself which of course failed because he had built up an immunity to poison. Instead he had to have one of his servants kill him by sword.
posted by ND¢ at 8:26 PM on March 9, 2007


Generally, there is no practical purpose or favorable cost/benefit ratio for performing mithridatism except for people like zoo handlers, researchers, and circus artists who deal closely with venomous animals. Mithridatization has been tried with success in Australia and Brazil and total immunity has been achieved even to multiple bites of extremely venomous cobras and pit vipers. Bill Haast successfully immunized himself to the venoms of a number of species of poisonous snakes.
posted by ND¢ at 8:29 PM on March 9, 2007


Huh. Well, I know it worked for Wesley in the Princess Bride...
posted by miss lynnster at 8:29 PM on March 9, 2007


@miss lynnster - Exactly what I was thinking.

I've heard of snake handlers/researchers becoming partially immune to less potent kinds of venom, so I assume the same thing could be possible for other toxins.

It does, however, sound like a very, very stupid idea, and probably a good way to get yourself a darwin award.
posted by dantekgeek at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2007


Allergy shots work on the same concept - expose the sufferer to small amounts of allergens in the hope of building up some immunity. The important difference being that cat dander, though unpleasant, won't kill you.

Don't dick around with poison. There's a reason they put the skull and cross bones on the bottle.
posted by aladfar at 8:50 PM on March 9, 2007


Alcohol and nicotine are poisons, right? I can think of several neat party tricks that involve beer and cigarettes...
posted by peeedro at 8:51 PM on March 9, 2007


I guess I'm saying you should pick your poison carefully.
posted by peeedro at 9:01 PM on March 9, 2007


When you think about people building up tolerances to various poisons, these are usually more complicated molecules - most any painkiller, snake venom, alcohol, various medications, and so forth. My guess is that you probably could not build up a serious tolerance to simple elements, such as arsenic. I'm guessing anything for which you would receive a chelation treatment is right out. I'm thinking your average ion (CN-) would be out, too.


This certainly has some other connections in fiction, like an early episode of The Invisible Man ("The Catevari") and an old John Farris novel (I think All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, but it's been quite some time). I guess I might start looking for fiction and other historical anecdotes.
posted by adipocere at 9:37 PM on March 9, 2007


I'm sorry, but in my mind this is incontheivable. Obviously YMMV. As you wish.

/PB references

posted by miss lynnster at 9:48 PM on March 9, 2007


My guess is that you probably could not build up a serious tolerance to simple elements, such as arsenic.

Oddly enough, arsenic is believed to have been eaten daily by some groups in small amounts for assorted reasons, including to build up an immunity against its use as a poison.
posted by dilettante at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2007


Yeah, this sounds like a great way to destroy your liver or kidney.
posted by filmgeek at 10:06 PM on March 9, 2007


Rumor has it that it's what killed Arafat....Eideteker, there are other ways of being reckless--I (and other mefites) don't want you hurting yourself like this.
posted by brujita at 10:20 PM on March 9, 2007


miss lynster, 'incontheivable'? I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by X4ster at 10:24 PM on March 9, 2007


Mithridates, he died old.
posted by staggernation at 10:24 PM on March 9, 2007


Are we sure you are not planning a murder? "Here take a swig of this. dangerous? no, look, I'll go first just to prove it." I mean psych majors are usually troubled souls. Am I right?
posted by vronsky at 10:27 PM on March 9, 2007


Hey Eidetecker... I'm going to be serious about this for a second. I once had an allergy to prescription medication (for a back injury) that caused pleural effusion in my lungs. Over five months I got sicker & sicker, and ironically I kept taking the medicine thinking it would help (my back hurt more the sicker I got). By the end of it all I could eat was creamed corn, I could barely speak or breathe, and I'd gone from a size 12 to a size 6. I looked HORRIBLE. Turned out I was poisoning myself and once I stopped taking the pill I started feeling better in a matter of days.

PLEASE do not poison your body on purpose. Treasure your body. Treat it well. Make it last a long ass time. It's the only body you've got.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:32 PM on March 9, 2007


As an aside:
"Allergy shots work on the same concept - expose the sufferer to small amounts of allergens in the hope of building up some immunity"

Actually, the point of allergy shots is to persuade your body that the allergens are "self." The goal is to eliminate the immunity that causes the allergic response.
posted by Good Brain at 11:00 PM on March 9, 2007


This is a dumb idea. Give it up and focus that energy (and willingness to suffer!) on something worthwhile.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 PM on March 9, 2007


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