Q: I have been reading Forensics and Fiction and have decided my killer’s weapon will be injections of botox. Would a full syringe of botox given as a muscle injection be enough to kill a grown man (or woman) in 2 minutes or less? Could a smaller amount be used to get the same result? How would a non-medical person be able to get access to enough botox to kill several people?
JM – Memphis, TN
A: The botulinum toxin is one of the most lethal substances known. Very small amounts can kill. The LD50 is about 50 nanograms—a nanogram is one billionth of a gram and there are 30 grams in an ounce. LD 50 means Lethal Dose 50%—the dose that will kill 50% of those exposed to it. Here the 50 billionths of a gram needed to kill most people is a very small amount.
Botox is a very diluted solution of botulinum toxin. How much solution must be injected depends on the actual concentration of the toxin in that particular solution and this varies greatly. For fiction, I wouldn’t worry about the math. Simply have the victim injected and have him die. The reader will assume that whatever the dose was it was enough.
Botox is not all that difficult to come by. It can be purchased from a pharmaceutical supply house, stolen from a pharmacy or a doctor’s office, purchased on the black market, or easily gotten in Mexico. They even have Botox parties at people’s homes where a doc will show up and inject everyone while they drink wine and chat. It’s so LA. Someone could simply steal a bottle when he wasn’t looking.