YEAH SCIENCE Avoiding Awkward Situations with Poison - Image 1

Maybe it's the exam you have in three hours that you meant to study for, but instead spent all night clicking through every link in the Mars Attacks wikipedia page. Maybe those three cell phones and two knives your OkCupid date placed on the table just alerted you to the fact that you are out with an ex-convict. It's okay, friend. These things happen to all of us! The important thing is that you have an escape plan ready to execute at a moment's notice. Here are some effective ways to appear afflicted with a legitimate illness at any time. You might just become the James Bond of not having to go to your great-aunt's cat's funeral.

YEAH SCIENCE Avoiding Awkward Situations with Poison - Image 1

Deadly Nightshade Poisoning

The name is enough to tell you not to eat the berries. They're hideously poisonous, because they contain a compound called Atropine, which can shut down your parasympathetic nervous system, the aspect of your nervous system that unconsciously works to keep you chillin' hard. Your body has two automatic nervous systems, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, that work against each other to either rev you up or slow you down. For example, if your OkCupid date suggests to come by their place to "see what they're working on now," you might experience a sympathetic nervous system response. This is the "fight-or-flight" response, and it's going to shut down your digestive system, as well as your systems of sexual arousal, and instead direct all your body's energy to getting you ready to pay attention, think fast, and run faster. Sugar and fat will rush into the bloodstream, and in turn the blood vessels that run to your muscles will expand, directing all that foodstuffs to your muscles and brain. Your pupils dilate to let in more light, and then you take off your glasses and become superman. Whenever you hear about someone who gets into a life or death situation, has an adrenaline rush and finds this unknown well of strength, they can thank their sympathetic nervous system for that brief moment of supercharged muscles and mental clarity.
Anyway, the yin to this sympathetic nervous system's yang is called the parasympathetic nervous system, and it is the "rest-and-digest" response. Sometimes it's called the "feed-and-breed" response because it helps facilitate the breakdown of food and is necessary to get a boner. If you are hanging on the couch re-watching Breaking Bad, thinking about so-and-so, and eating snacks you are activating this response with aplomb. With Deadly Nightshade, you throw the nice balance between these two nervous systems out of whack. More specifically, that chemical, Atropine, blocks the action of the neurotransmitter used to send messages to the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous system, and you become this unchecked, sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system response mess. Your muscles will seize and spasm, you'll be supersensitive to light, and you may hallucinate. Your speech will be slurred and almost unintelligible.


If you needed to be excused from an exam, I can't think of a better series of symptoms to present with in the lecture hall. The sympathetic nervous system shuts down your excretory functions, so you won't have to worry about pissing your pants during this whole debacle.


Could easily be fatal (This is a pretty serious con). Symptoms may resemble a drug overdose.

YEAH SCIENCE Avoiding Awkward Situations with Poison - Image 1

Saxitoxin, or Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

If bugging out with an extreme fight-or-flight response is not your style, maybe Saxitoxin (SXT) may work best for you. This is a toxin in some shellfish that leads to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The toxin blocks sodium channels on your nerves from operating, so your nerves are basically useless and can no longer send messages back and forth from your brain or spinal cord to your body. Until this toxin is out of your system, you will descend into a state of complete paralysis, but you will remain calm and lucid throughout. Less severe symptoms include loss of coordination, as well as vomiting and burning/tingling sensations. Nerves, you guys. Mess with them and they'll mess you up.


Someone will have to carry your limp body to the hospital. Woohoo! You just got out of having to use your legs to get places. You were able to enjoy some delicious mussels 30 minutes prior to this event.


Involves the potential for complete and total paralysis. Are you really ready to go there? What happens if you get an itch?

So this is probably more of a thought experiment, as these solutions are pretty much the definition of "don't try this at home." To be honest, I do not recommend trying them anywhere. It would be easy to go too far and cause some serious, potentially fatal damage. So, to conclude, the only solution I really feel comfortable recommending is to just lie and say you have diarrhea. Not food poisoning though; you have to actually say "diarrhea." It doesn't require a trip to the hospital or a doctor's note, and no one will want to press you on any of the details. Also, it's embarrassing enough that people won't suspect you of making it up. Score!