How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (2022)

Table of Contents

  • What is chloroform?
  • Where is chloroform normally found?
  • What does chloroform smell like?
  • Use of chloroform: What is chloroform used for?
  • Chloroform Effects: What does chloroform do?
  • How long does it take for chloroform to knock you out?
  • Chloroform Risks: Hazards associated with the ingestion/consumption of chloroform
  • What to do if you are exposed to chloroform?
  • Suggested Reading

Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid with the IUPAC name trichloromethane and the chemical formula CHCl3. Chloroform is used as a solvent in the paper, construction and wood processing industries as well as in pesticide production. Chloroform can also numb or render people unconscious in small doses.

Pick a famous crime story, serial killer investigation or espionage movie and chances are that the following scene will unfold one way or another:

A villain sneaks behind a target and puts a rag over his mouth; after a few moments, the victim becomes weak on his knees and loses consciousness.

If you’re more interested in chemistry than action scenes, then this question has surely come into your head at some point: Does chloroform really knock someone out that quickly?

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What is chloroform?

Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling organic compound with the IUPAC name trichloromethane and the chemical formula CHCl3. It is a dense liquid with tetrahedral molecular geometry with C3 symmetry. The structural formula of chloroform is given below:

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (1)

(Video) How Long It Takes For Chloroform To Make A Person Unconscious?

Chloroform’s structural formula

Chloroform is a highly volatile liquid that has been widely used throughout history due to its narcotic properties and has a reputation for anaesthetizing or rendering people unconscious, even when consumed in small doses.

In chemical jargon, chloroform is liquid trichloromethane and is produced on an industrial scale by heating a mixture of chlorine and either chloromethane or methane.

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (2)

Where is chloroform normally found?

Chloroform is a naturally occurring organic compound found in the air and in coastal waters, lakes, inland waters and groundwater. However, most of the chloroform found in the environment is produced by humans. Higher chloroform levels are found in industrial areas and in the air above swimming pools where the water has been disinfected with chlorine.

What does chloroform smell like?

Chloroform is a sweet-smelling liquid, similar to ether, along with a slightly sweet taste. Some people compare the smell to the smell of disinfectants, similar to the smell that is perceived in hospitals and medical facilities. We interviewed a number of chemists working in chemical laboratories who explained that the chloroform smell vaguely resembles the smell of acetone, an organic compound.

Use of chloroform: What is chloroform used for?

  1. Chloroform is often used as a solvent in the chemical production of compounds.
  2. It is used in the paper, construction and woodworking industries.
  3. It is used in pesticide and film production.
  4. Chloroform is used to produce a refrigerant called Fluorocarbon 22.
  5. Chloroform is used as a solvent in floor polishes, lacquers, adhesives, resins, oils, alkaloids, fats and rubber.

Use of chloroform as an anesthetic in the past

Chloroform was first used as an anesthetic in 1847 by an obstetrician named James Young Simpson; he actually used it as an anesthetic on two people. A few days later, it was successfully used in a dental procedure in Edinburgh with no discernible adverse effects.

Soon, its popularity as an anesthetic soared to the point that it said that it was even used during the birth of Queen Victoria’s last two children in the 1850s. Its golden age, however, was short-lived, as it was gradually replaced by ether that was much safer than chloroform, and had virtually no side effects.

Chloroform Effects: What does chloroform do?

The effect of chloroform on humans increases proportionally with its dosage. In small doses, chloroform can cause you to feel lethargic and disoriented, but with increasing dosage, you can quickly lose consciousness and feel no pain or sensation. In higher doses, it can lead to tense breathing, complete muscle relaxation and paralysis of the chest muscles, which can often be fatal.

The effects of chloroform on the human body largely depend on its dosage and method of administration.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, “immediately or shortly after exposure to a chloroform level of 100 ppm (100,000 ppbv) in the air, a person may feel tired, dizzy, and have a headache.”

Chloroform is known for its anesthetic properties. If taken in small doses, it can numb or knock a person over, while in high concentrations it can be fatal.

(Video) Chloroform | Does it really knock you out? | TESTED (Hindi/English Subtitles)

There is some evidence that chloroform directly affects the central nervous system, along with the liver and kidneys; at high doses, it can cause respiratory depression and coma.

Although many of us associate chloroform with “a fluid in a rag that knocks people out,” its effects on the human body can be far more complex, and if not carefully monitored, chloroform can be fatal.

How long does it take for chloroform to knock you out?

In 1865, The Lancet, the medical journal, called upon any person, criminal or not, to prove that waving a chloroform drenched handkerchief was enough to knock someone out. No one has to date come forward with an answer.

While the right dose of chloroform soaked in a rag can definitely render you unconscious (the Lancet articles cites 5 minutes and persistance should knock someone out, but no experimental evidence was provided), it would take much longer than what they show in movies: you wouldn’t drop unconscious just by taking a whiff!

Issues of volatility

Chloroform is a volatile liquid, so it quickly loses its effectiveness when it comes into contact with air. Therefore, it is not a plausible scenario that the “villain holds a cloth soaked in chloroform while waiting for the victim to appear,” since the chloroform in the cloth would lose its effectiveness by the time it is actually pressed against the victim’s nose.

It is possible that a victim in such a situation will not faint simply because of the chloroform. Along with chloroform, the victim may faint due to suffocation, since putting a cloth over the nose and mouth would not allow the victim to breathe.

Chloroform Risks: Hazards associated with the ingestion/consumption of chloroform

When ingested, chloroform is converted into a chemical called phosgene. Phosgene is toxic to cells, so the use of too much chloroform could cause cells to die.

If you look at how its use is portrayed in films and television, you might assume that it is just another liquid that is harmless to the victim, but that is absolutely wrong.

Some studies have shown a possible link between chloroform in chlorinated water and the occurrence of cancer of the colon and urinary bladder. Liver and kidney cancer developed in rats and mice who ate food or drank water containing large amounts of chloroform for long periods of time.

Chloroform can be very dangerous, to the point of being fatal to the victim if an inappropriate dose is administered or if the chloroform-soaked cloth is placed too tightly on their face.

For good reason, chloroform is no longer used as an anesthetic; it is a difficult task to determine the right dose that would render a person unconscious without affecting other vital nerve functions.

What to do if you are exposed to chloroform?

The first thing to do is to move away from the source of exposure as quickly as possible.

(Video) Can Chloroform knock you out?

If the person exposed is already unconscious and unable to move independently, they should be removed from the source of chloroform exposure by others. Clothes that may have come into contact with chloroform should be removed and thrown away. Eyes and skin exposed to chloroform should be washed and rinsed with clean, uncontaminated water.

How well do you understand chloroform?

Can you answer three questions based on the article you just read?

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (3)

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(Video) What Happens When You Are KNOCKED OUT?

FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? ›

It takes at least five minutes of inhaling an item soaked in chloroform to render a person unconscious. Most criminal cases involving chloroform also involve another drug being co-administered, such as alcohol or diazepam, or the victim being found to have been complicit in its administration.

What chemical can knock someone out quickly? ›

Chloroform is known for its anesthetic properties. If taken in small doses, it can numb or knock a person over, while in high concentrations it can be fatal.

What works faster chloroform? ›

The anesthetic was mixed with air in known concentrations. Fluothane and chloroform produced similar anesthesia, and was 4 1/2 times more potent than ether. Induction with fluothane was faster than with chloroform and ether. Fluothane seems slightly more potent than chloroform and has an equal margin of safety.

What do kidnappers use to put you to sleep? ›

The substances most commonly found are benzodiazepines, followed by other hypnotics. In Europe, the illegal substance gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB, "Liquid Ecstasy"), often mentioned as a "date-rape drug," is only rarely detected with sufficient medicolegal certainty.

What happens when you drink chloroform? ›

Ingestion of chloroform can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, nausea and vomiting. Chloroform can be absorbed into the body via ingestion or inhalation. Symptoms include excitement and nausea followed by dizziness and drowsiness.

How long do you stay unconscious when knocked out? ›

It depends on the severity of the injury. If you lose consciousness briefly, and suffer a concussion, 75 to 90 percent of people will fully recover in a few months. But severe damage to the brain can cause unconsciousness for days, weeks, or even longer.

What does chloroform smell like? ›

Chloroform is a clear liquid with an ether-like odor and a slightly sweet taste.

Do hospitals use chloroform? ›

In the world at large, in hospitals and private practice, both in town and in the country, chloroform is still the anesthetic most largely used in obstetrics. It has survived many eras of criticism.

Is it illegal to have chloroform? ›

It was used as an anesthetic prior to World War II, but this use has been banned. In addition, the U.S. FDA has banned its use in drugs, cosmetics, and food packaging (Kirk-Othmer 1979, ATSDR 1997).

What's similar to chloroform? ›

The results indicate that halothane and eucalyptol are suitable alternatives to chloroform as gutta-percha softening solvents.

What drug do doctors use to knock you out? ›

Propofol is the sedative of choice given to first knock you out.

How much chloroform is fatal? ›

The mean lethal dose for adults is estimated to be approximately 45 g [1]. Chloroform may be absorbed across the skin and prolonged exposure may result in systemic toxicity, as described in the inhalation section.

How long is someone usually knocked out for? ›

a typical knockout, which results in a sustained (three seconds or more) loss of consciousness (comparable to general anesthesia, in that the recipient emerges and has lost memory of the event).

What does getting knocked out feel like? ›

While you're out, it is akin to being asleep. I have awoken as if from a deep sleep, and actually have felt extremely refreshed, that is, until the numbing pain of the strike that caused the forced nap flares up.

Can you hear when you are unconscious? ›

Studies indicate that hearing is the last of the senses to be lost. We therefore encourage you to continue to talk to the person even if they appear to be unconscious.

Is chloroform still used today? ›

During the Civil War, chloroform was used whenever it was available to reduce the pain and trauma of amputation or other procedures. Usage of ether and chloroform later declined after the development of safer, more effective inhalation anesthetics, and they are no longer used in surgery today.

What color is chloroform? ›

Chloroform appears as a clear colorless liquid with a characteristic odor.

What type of anesthesia is used for chloroform? ›

It is one of the four chloromethanes and a trihalomethane. It is a powerful anesthetic, euphoriant, anxiolytic and sedative when inhaled or ingested.

Can civilians buy chloroform? ›

Although synthesizing chloroform requires the sophisticated knowledge of a chemist, there is no permit necessary to purchase it, and the substance can be readily purchased at most chemical-supply stores. But remember: Just because you can get your hands on it, doesn't mean you can use it like they do in the movies.

How long does it take ether to knock you out? ›

In concentrations of 3–5% in air, an anesthetic effect can slowly be achieved in 15–20 minutes of breathing approximately 15–20 ml of ether, depending on body weight and physical condition. Ether causes a very long excitation stage prior to blacking out.

Can chloroform be detected in autopsy? ›

Fatal level of chloroform was detected in the blood and tissues by gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analysis.

Does bleach and vinegar make chloroform? ›

Mixing bleach and rubbing alcohol can create chloroform which can damage your liver, kidneys, brain, heart and bone marrow. Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar make peracetic acid which is highly corrosive and unsafe. If someone is cleaning at home, individuals should make sure they aren't mixing these chemicals.

What drugs do hospitals use to put you to sleep? ›

Some of the commonly utilized narcotics include morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), merperidine (Demerol®) and oxycodone (OxyContin®). Anesthesiologists administer these drugs intra-operative (during surgery) and post-operatively (after surgery) to help control pain.

How do hospitals put you to sleep? ›

Your anesthesiologist usually delivers the anesthesia medications through an intravenous line in your arm. Sometimes you may be given a gas that you breathe from a mask. Children may prefer to go to sleep with a mask. Once you're asleep, the anesthesiologist may insert a tube into your mouth and down your windpipe.

How fast do you fall asleep with anesthesia? ›

General anesthesia usually puts you to sleep in less than 30 seconds.

Is there a spray to knock someone out? ›

Knockout pepper spray is one of the best I have used till now. It's very effective, I tried spraying a little to check and people around me including me started sneezing for at least a minute. It comes in a very handy pack and is easy to carry.

What is used instead of chloroform? ›

The results indicate that halothane and eucalyptol are suitable alternatives to chloroform as gutta-percha softening solvents.

Is it illegal to have chloroform? ›

It was used as an anesthetic prior to World War II, but this use has been banned. In addition, the U.S. FDA has banned its use in drugs, cosmetics, and food packaging (Kirk-Othmer 1979, ATSDR 1997).

How do you knock out a big guy? ›

How to Knock Someone Out with One Punch - YouTube

Do hospitals use chloroform? ›

In the world at large, in hospitals and private practice, both in town and in the country, chloroform is still the anesthetic most largely used in obstetrics. It has survived many eras of criticism.

How much chloroform is harmful? ›

The mean lethal dose for adults is estimated to be approximately 45 g [1]. Chloroform may be absorbed across the skin and prolonged exposure may result in systemic toxicity, as described in the inhalation section.

When did they stop using chloroform for anesthesia? ›

In 1947, Ralph Waters attempted to reactivate chloroform, but failed. Possibly as a result of these efforts, however, chloroform played a role in American publications longer than elsewhere. The story of the clinical use of chloroform ended in 1976 with the second edition of V. J. Collins' textbook.

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