Roaring Twenties Drugs and Poisons

hommedia.ashxI‘ve come across another great drug that I can use in my stories. Thanks to my official poison advisor, Dr. Mark Pugh (a pharmacist), I’ve learned about the properties of Veronal. This was a popular sleeping powder in the 1920s, but like all sleep medicine, it could be dangerous. Many people were poisoned with it accidentally or committed suicide with it or were murdered. Great drug for a mystery writer, huh??

The normal dose was between 5 and 10 grains. My main character, Jessie, is small and female, so she takes the single dose of 5 grains to help her sleep on a long, cross-country train ride. A lethal dose has been reported to be around 50 grains. Veronal came in powdered form in a folded paper called a powder paper. The paper would be unfolded and the powder dropped into a beverage and drunk. It was also made in cachets which are like small ravioli. The powder would be measured out and placed on a wafer made of a flour/water type dough or rice paper. Another wafer was placed on top and the edges sealed with water and pressure. The cachet was placed on the tongue and chased with a beverage or dissolved into a beverage and drunk.

For my story, RENTING SILENCE, I am using Veronal in powder papers. The powder would dissolve more quickly than a cachet when placed surreptitiously into a drink. A good knock-out dose would be around 15-20 grains (3 or 4 powder papers) depending on the size of the person. This dose would not be fatal, but it would put someone to sleep in 30 minutes, and they would remain asleep for 6-8 hours. 

I have Jessie buying Veronal in papers at the drug store for her own use, as she boards the train. The trip between the west coast and Chicago lasted 3 nights, and one paper of 5 grains helps her sleep. Later, when she tangles with some Bad Guys, she thinks to slip her Veronal into their glasses to knock them out. I am half finished with this book, so I haven’t reached the Bad Guy scene yet, but at least I know how Jessie will knock them out!

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Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 7:54 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks, Mary, I can use this : )

  2. i find this very interesting. what is it’s source? what did it taste like? i appreciate all the research you put into your blogs. i also like the brevity of them.

    • My source, besides the Internet, was Dr. Mark Pugh, the pharmacist I credited above. I have no idea of the taste.


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