Have you ever wondered why people commit suicide? Well, there are usually many factors that lead to the decision for someone to take their own life. Here are just a few — The most common cause is severe depression causing emotional pain and loss of hope, leading the person to the decision to end their life. Being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) causing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, may lead a person to suicide. Relationship loss can also contribute to a person’s reason to suicide. Chronic pain or illness with no hope of a cure or relief from suffering can push a person to end their life. Social isolation or being a burden to others could also cause thoughts of suicide.

          In my book “Death by Poison” I take you on a journey into the world of common poisons which were used in the 19th century for suicide or for murder. Arsenic was the chief poison of the era; found in flypaper and cosmetics. Arsenic is a tasteless, odorless compound that can be easily put in food or drink. It was commonly used to rid a homestead of vermin, mice and rats. Its effects could be written off as food poisoning, making foul play harder to detect. Strychnine, another common poison was highly toxic, colorless and tasted bitter, and was commonly used to kill small birds and rodents. Strychnine comes from the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica tree. Cyanide, another common poison, was everywhere; in everything from paints to daguerreotype photographs to wallpapers. Its speed was a plus, but its distinctive effects were easily recognizable and hard to pass off as anything but murder. If used, the victim’s skin would turn dark pink or bright red, with a distinct smell of bitter almonds emanating from the body. Laudanum was principally used as a pain medication and cough suppressant. It was extremely bitter and contained opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. Until the early 20th century, laudanum was sold without a prescription, but today, it is recognized as addictive and strictly regulated throughout the world.

          Death by Poison is a collection of stories that take place in Minnesota from 1859 to 1913. They all involve some type of poisoning, either for suicide or for murder. They happened to people from all walks of life. These are just a few of the many stories in which different types of poison were used to end a life.

Blog 1, June 25, 2023, Patricia Lubeck     

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