On this list of Poison Types we’ll cover all kinds of deadly toxins, from quick death poisons to easily available ones, painful ones, common ones and more. Somewhere in this list of Poison Types there are two very scary poisons that fit into most of these categories and are scary enough to keep you awake at night.
Although, as you learned from our Can you Die from Lack of Sleep article, that could be just as dangerous as some of the poisons on this list.
Quick Death Poisons
Cyanide is one of the most well known quick death poisons, and a particular favorite with spies, double agents and mystery novel writers. This is a naturally occurring poison and one that you can find in small doses in everything from apple seeds to apricot kernels and tobacco smoke (see Deaths from Weed and Drugs to learn how deadly this smoke is).
You will no doubt have seen the use of cyanide pills in spy movies, where the bad guy drops a pill and is dead within seconds, long before the good guys can extract info. This is an exaggeration, but only slight. Cyanide probably won’t kill you in seconds, but it can kill in a minute if the dose is high enough. In fact, this quick death poison typically kills in under 15 minutes.
Hydrogen cyanide is even more deadly as it’s a gas. It was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust, a particularly dark time in human history.
Other quick death poisons include Tetrodotoxin, which comes from the puffer fish. As any fan of The Simpsons and Japanese cuisine knows, this fish is a delicacy in Japan and it requires a skilled sushi chef to prepare. The fish needs to be very carefully prepared to make sure none of the toxin gets into the meat, but even the slightest nick in the wrong place could lead to instant death for the unlucky diner.
The puffer fish isn’t the only source of this quick death poison. It is also found in the blue-ringed octopus, an 8-legged devil from the bowels of hell that injects its prey with enough Tetrodotoxin to kill over 2 dozen humans. Even the Japanese wouldn’t be crazy enough to eat that. Probably.
Slow Death Poisons
Poison doesn’t always kill quickly. Dimethylmercury, for instance, can trigger a very long and slow death. Like many horrible things in the universe, this poison is man-made and doses as low as a tenth of a milligram have been known to prove fatal. But symptoms may not start until month after exposure.
In 1996, a scientist spilled a single drop of Dimethylmercury on herself. She was wearing gloves, but the poison didn’t have any respect for the thin layer of latex and within 4 months she began showing serious symptoms of Dimethylmercury exposure. A further 6 months later she was dead.
Equally slow and painful, Polonium can also deliver a painful death for which there is no cure. This is the poison used to kill former spy Alexander Litvinenko in a famous case where every intelligence agency in the world held up their hands and said, “It wasn’t us, honest!”. His death was akin to a slow and painful death from cancer and the scary thing is that it could take a single gram of this substance to kill over a million humans.
Easily Available Poisons
Believe it or not, cyanide, one of the deadly quick death poisons listed above, is also easily available. There are many of types of poisons. Of all the poison types we have covered on this list, these are the most worrying. We know there are a lot of crazy, murderous humans out there, so it’s a worry to know that they can so easily possess something so deadly.
The fact that cyanide fits into this section and the Quick Death section on our Poison Types lists is even more worrying, but it’s not the only one. Heavy metals like lead and mercury are also easily available poisons and while they tend not to be as deadly, they can certainly cause a painful death.
Undetectable and Untraceable Poisons
Arsenic used to be an undetectable poison, but that really isn’t the case any longer. There are other undetectable poisons though, including things such as aconite.
These days we have methods to detect foreign bodies and chemicals, we know what happens to someone when they die and what triggers that death. There are also simple tests that can be used to detect a long list of different poisons and potentially related chemicals. If something is strong enough to kill when it is ingested, it means it is spreading through the blood, which is detectable; it is causing organ/bring damage, which is detectable; and it is ultimately leading to death, which is suspicious enough to warrant the tests in the first place.
Most Common Poison
Arsenic is often known as the “king of poisons”. Not just because it is somewhat widely available or because it is deadly (which it is), but mainly because it is relatively undetectable. It has been the poison of choice for many poisoners throughout history, especially black widows. One of the most popular methods of arsenic poisoning was to use fly paper, which was a widely available strip of sticky paper that was coated in arsenic. It would be hung in homes, attracting flies that would stick to it and die. This paper was then used by poisoners as a quick and clean way of disposing of partners, friends, and anyone else who got in their way.
Arsenic can now be detected, but that wasn’t the case in the past. Because of this it was used to kill many royals and other famous figures and is said yo have been responsible for the deaths of both George III and Napoleon Bonaparte. There are also countless theories involving arsenic, including the death of Elizabeth First, whose makeup is said to have contained the poison.
There are many poison types and as mentioned above these include quick death poisons and undetectable poisons. Some of these are stronger than arsenic, some are weaker, some are less detectable. But without much of a doubt, this is the poison that has taken more lives than any other.
It is not the deadliest poison, but the quick death, super-fatal chemical that takes that prize is arguably even more readily available and widely used in the modern age.
The botulinum toxic is probably the deadliest poison in the world. It can cause botulism, which is one of the most deadly conditions known to man and it takes just a small amount of this poison to kill thousands of people. In fact, just 1.3 nanograms is enough to end one person’s life.
And if you’re thinking that you recognize the name, you’re probably right. Botulinum is “botox”, which means that it is the same stuff that pouting celebs inject into their foreheads to hide their emotions.
The reason why botox doesn’t kill you a thousand times over is because incredibly small amounts are used, just enough to paralyze muscles and not to kill. The botox industry is also tightly regulated to make sure this remains the case.
If this scared you, wait until you see our list of Everyday Things that Can Kill You and Really Old Torture Methods article.