Author Question: Help Me Knock Out My Character!

Elizabeth Asks:

I need to temporarily drug character. She will ingest it unknowingly (probably through coffee). I’m also considering having her drink one glass of wine, so the culprit could be the drug itself or the combination of the two, but I’m open to other possibilities.

It would need to be an OTC drug or something with easy access. Also, the drug would either have to wear off on its own or need be handled by an EMT without access to a hospital or medical equipment. What drug would get the job done? Would sleeping pills work and if so which kind would be best? How much would the character need to ingest? And how long before it takes effect and wears off?  Thank you!

Jordyn Says:

Hi Elizabeth!

Thanks for sending me your medical question.

You specify that the drug would need to be over-the-counter or something with “easy access”. Your two possibilities would truly be something over-the-counter or a prescription medication is stolen from someone else.

There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that cause sleepiness. The three most common would probably be diphenhydramine (Benadryl), dimenhydrinate (the active ingredient in the Dramamine that causes sleepiness), and doxylamine succinate. Several combination medications contain these active ingredients. For instance, if you look at multi symptom cough medicines, you’ll likely see one of these medications. Same with Tylenol PM or Advil PM. To a lesser degree, Melatonin and Valerian Root can also cause drowsiness.

The problem with all of these over-the-counter preparations is that they don’t have the same predictable impact. One person might take one of these medications and fall asleep in fifteen minutes. Another might take it and not be sleepy at all.

A safer bet would be to have this character steal a prescription medicine from someone. This opens up your possibilities of what drug to choose that would have a more predictable effect. Some of those drug categories would be benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax), opioids (like morphine and fentanyl), and the hypnotics (like Ambien and Lunesta). Also, muscle relaxers like Soma and Flexeril have sleepiness as a side effect.

Then, of course, your character could obtain an illegal drug like Ketamine or GHB (aka the date rape drug).

The OTC medications will probably have the least disastrous side effects if given in normal doses. Your chances of injuring your character go up exponentially with these other drug classes if proper medical attention isn’t give if the character stops breathing. This would be the leading cause of medical calamity using a prescription or illegal drug.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide. I think the best thing for you to do would be pick a drug from each of these classes: over-the-counter, prescription, and illegal— and research a few to decide. If you type in the exact name of the drug and the question you want answered (like dose, onset of action, etc) you will usually find drug guides that can answer these questions for you.

Hope this helps and good luck with this story!

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