The Use Of Poisons As Medicines Biology Essay

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A poison is a substance which can cause injury or death to somebody, by damaging their cells or organism. People may come in contact with poison trough ingestion, inhalation, absorption or injection. Medication prescribed maybe poisonous if the concentration or the given dose is not measured or consumed accurately and taken excessively. Medicines are used to cure illness & if used in another way such as going over the set dosage can be used as a poison and may cause fatality. There are many types of poisons that are also used to cure different illness. This is where Toxicology comes in; Toxicology is the study of poisons. With the help and research of Toxicologists today, these poisons are understood properly and also used as medicine were needed. Toxicology also focuses on regions such as the nature of toxicity, dose - response relationships, pathology and also a component of Forensic Toxicology. I am talking about toxicology is because poisons cover a big division of toxicology.

In this essay I will be mainly focusing how poisons can be used as medicines. An example of a poison that is used as a medicine is Snake venom. The venom is highly modified saliva. The gland that secretes the toxin, is a modification of the parotid salivary gland of other animals, and should usually be located on each side of the head behind the eyes. Snake venom is a combination of many different proteins and enzymes. Some maybe harmless to humans, but some are toxins.

In the snakes venom there are enzymes such as Phosphodiesterases, cholinesterase, hyaluronidase. There are also enzymes used for digestion such as oxidases and proteases. Snake venom is very special, as there are many things within it that helps it catch prey. It can increases tissue permeability, make the prey lose control of its muscles, interfere with the prey's cardiac system, to lower preys blood pressure.

There are three distinct types of venom that act on the body. Hemotoxic venoms act on the heart and cardiovascular system. Neurotoxic venom acts on the nervous system and brain and Cytotoxic venom has a localized action at the site of the bite. Some snakes venom only effects the nervous systems. Vascular system is also another point in which the venom affects. It does this by coagulation the blood and clotting of the pulmonary arteries. As you can see from my explanation snake bites are very serious.

Venomous snake bites may be treated with anti venom. Antivenin or antivenom, is made from snake venom. They make Antivenin by getting the venom from a venomous snake in the process called milking. Antivenin, is created by injecting a small amount of venom into an animal, maybe a sheep or a rabbit; the animal which has been injected will then start to suffer an immune response to the venom. This will then cause the subject to start producing antibodies against the venom's active molecule. This is then taken from the animal's blood and used to treat other people who have been bitten by a venomous snake. Snake Venom Antitoxin must carefully meet the standards of Pharmacopoeia and the World Health Organization (WHO). There is also antivenoms for many different posions from different species, such as Insects, Scorpions to Marine animals. The principle of antivenin is based on that of vaccines.

Aconite is a well-known poison derived from plants in the Aconitum genus (common names include monkshood). Aconite can cause death by respiratory and heart failure. However, it has many good uses, for example it can be used to relieve pain, inflammation, dilate blood vessels, and act as an aesthetic. Aconite is also said to be an excellent remedy for sudden illness, aches, colds, coughs, sore throat, flu, chills and fever. It is often used in homeopathy. Homeopaths believe that people who are healthy, happy and strong but develop illness quickly and show a signs of loosing strength and weight are said to cured by using Aconite.

Aconite plant

Posion oak or posion ivy is a plant where its posion leaves a harsh rash on your skin when in comes in contact with it. The Oak rash is cause by a chemical called urushiol which is located on the oaks leaves. Posion oak or posion ivy should not be burnt because if the smoke is inhaled it can cause leathal poisoning which can lead to fatality. Poison oak can also be used to prevent infection and heal wounds.

Poison Oak

Botulinum Toxin and Botox.

Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin; it produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and is very highly toxic. Botox contains extremely dilute amounts of botulinum toxin, and has many medical uses. It is mostly known as a cosmetic treatment today, where a single injection is used to temporarily reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It reduces wrinkles by paralyzing the muscles which ever area the Botox is injected in. Botox injections are also used to treat people diagnosed with constant ghastly migraines, Strabismus (crossed eyes), urinary incontinence and spastic contractions which for example can be caused by multiple sclerosis. Using excessive amount of Botox at anytime may be poisonous and may lead to fatality.

Arsenic is another poison that can be used as medicine. When it gets in contact with the body, it causes damage within the body by disrupting the electron transport chain and inhibiting the production of ATP. Arsenic is colourless, tasteless, and odourless and large amounts of arsenic cause's nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, haemorrhaging, and depending on the dosage taken may lead to fatality.

Smaller amounts of arsenic taken over a long period of time will result in weakness, confusion, and paralysis. Arsenic is not just a poison; since 1786 it was used to treat ulcers, it also became an ingredient in famous Fowler's solution; a tonic prescribed for everything from asthma to cancer, acute forms of Leukaemia is also treatable with Arsenic. Arsenic derivatives are still used today to treat African sleeping sickness.

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, and some chronic infections. Since cancer cells multiply much faster than normal cells, chemotherapy aims to kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing or making new DNA. This means hair cells and bone marrow cells are also affected. Chemotherapy can also cause vomiting, diarrhoea, tiredness, hair and weight loss and also organ damage. But never less it is one of the most important methods used to fight cancer.

Digotoxin is extracted from the foxglove plant; just one nibble of the plant's leaves can cause death. On the other hand, Digotoxin can be turned into drugs which are known as digitalis or digoxin. These prescribed drugs are used to treat bad heart conditions. Digotoxin is used for treating arterial fibrillation, arterial flutter, and can be used as a last resort medication for congestive heart failure.

Foxglove plant

There are some known prescribed muscle relaxants which are also poisonous, an example is curare. Curare is a plant which is used as medicine on a set small dosage, exceeding the dosage may be fatal. On the other hand Curare is used to make poison-tipped darts and arrows, once hit, the poison paralyzes the prey, and quickly kills through asphyxiation. Pancuronium bromide is another prescribed muscle relaxants which is often used for muscle relaxation during general anaesthesia, it was also a component in the chemical cocktail used for lethal injections of people on death row in America.

Egotism is the effect of long-term ergot poisoning. Ergot is the common name of a fungus in the genus Claviceps Purpurea, Which is parasitic on certain grains and grasses. Symptoms include painful seizures and spasms, diarrhoea, parenthesis, itching, headaches, nausea and vomiting and depending on how much you come in contact with, may even cause fatality. Again on the other hand ergot is a plant poison used for medication. For example it is used in the ingredients of many prescribed medicine within the pharmaceutical industry today. It has been also used as herbal medicine to control haemorrhage during childbirth to ease the stress and pain.