2002 October 30 Wednesday
Russian Hostage Rescue Drug Known

Too much M99 causes respiratory paralysis. Injected naloxone (as diprenorphine or naltrexone tablets) would have saved those who were still barely live. The Russian government made some serious mistakes:

M99 is a synthetic opiate more than 500 times as powerful as morphine and more than 250 times as powerful as heroin. The great danger with M99 is that the lethal dose is only a few (normally three to six, depending on the animal) times higher than the effective incapacitating dose.

But they wold have been better off using BZ (quinuclidinyl benzilate) and it has an antidote called tacrine that works in a minute:

The safety factor for BZ is enormously higher than for M99: The lethal dose is 500 more than times higher than the effective dose. Further, the effects are reversible within three days if no antidote is given.

On the bright side, now that we have seen what can go wrong in a large scale hostage rescue situation involving hostage takers who have strapped on lots of bombs the various Western governments ought to be able (if I'm not being excessively optimistic) to learn from the Russian mistakes and to prepare better ways to rescue hostages in similar situations.

Update: The New Scientist is reporting that a drug combination may have been used:.

"There is already an inhalable opiate available - fentanyl, a short-acting, rather potent narcotic," says Alan Zelicoff, a chemical and biological warfare expert at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, US. "The clinical utility of this drug is that it acts very quickly.".

Fentanyl is commonly combined with halothane in order to minimise halothane's toxic side effects. And halothane may have been used to extend the effect of the agent, as the fentanyl wore off. But at high doses fentanyl alone may have been sufficiently long lasting. Both compounds must be administered as an aerosol suspension - tallying with the "grey" mist reported by some hostages.

Update II: The BBC confirms fentanyl:

Russia says the gas used in the siege of a Moscow theatre on Saturday was based on fentanyl, a potent opium-based narcotic used as an anaesthetic.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 October 30 01:27 AM 


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