Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Forensics of Horror, Part II: Jekyll & Hyde

"I hesitated long before I put this theory to the test of practice. I knew well that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very fortress of identity, might, by the least scruple of an overdose or at the least inopportunity in the moment of exhibition, utterly blot out that immaterial tabernacle which I looked to it to change. But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound at last overcame the suggestions of alarm."
-The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In our last post we discussed how the science of temperature change can be used to determine the time of death on a cooling body. In this post we move back to my realm of expertise, toxicology. Now, the way toxicology is applied in forensics changes drastically with whether the subject is alive or dead. When the concern is postmortem, then what we tend to be most interested in are the effects that the drug had on the body. What was the cause of death? How did the drugs/poisons interact with one another? What effect did the drug/poison have on the heart, the brain, etc.

When the subject is alive what we tend to be interested in is how the drug/poison effected their behavior. Did the drug cause the subject to behave in an unusual manner? With alcohol, this could be impairment as we discuss in DUI cases, but it could also be in terms of decision making or memories. For instance, did the alcohol make the subject unable to consent to sexual intercourse? Is it possible the subject has no memory of an assault?

Most know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the case of a mild mannered doctor who uses himself as a lab rat with a drug of his own mixture and releases the murderous personality of Mr. Hyde. There are several drugs we could attribute this change in Dr. Jekyll to. Many drugs including alcohol lower inhibitions. Perhaps Dr. Jekyll wasn't as mild mannered as he appeared. Perhaps the murderous rage was simply being held in check when he was sober and the reduced inhibitions let it free.

We can probably safely say that it wasn't marijuana and probably not an opiate either. The sedative effects of those drugs should have helped quell Mr. Hyde's rage if not simply reduce his motivation to seek out victims. They are also not associated with personality changes.

We can probably also eliminate cocaine from the list of possibilities. There are extremely rare cases where cocaine does cause paranoia in people taking it, but it's rare so let's assume Dr. Jekyll does not fall into this category. Certainly Mr. Hyde would still have the energy to seek out and act on his desires, but if we believe that Dr. Jekyll really was mild mannered then we would not expect cocaine to change his personality so drastically. Perhaps Dr. Jekyll would simply spend more time in his research without the need to sleep?

LSD is known to cause drastic changes in perception and we would certainly expect a change in personality to occur. LSD users tripping together have been known to kill each other in one delusion or another. Homicide and suicide are the most common causes of death attributed to LSD so is it possible that LSD was Dr. Jekyll's drug? Possible. However, Mr. Hyde's personality when it does appear seems to be very consistent and methodical, which is probably not what we would expect with LSD. Trips from LSD are known to differ wildly in the same person based on environment and mood. Would it be possible for Dr. Jekyll to always revert to Mr. Hyde regardless of mood or environment? Possible, but improbable.

I believe our most likely culprit would be PCP which is known to induce delusional, paranoid and violent behavior in it's users and those are the reasons the drug was pulled from approved human usage. Additionally PCP users have been known to exhibit "strength" and "endurance" beyond what is expected from an average person. This is primarily due to the fact that users simply do not register the pain and will continue on despite the fact that serious injury is occurring. Additionally, at low doses, some of the symptoms are consistent with alcohol which, as we mentioned before, result in reduced inhibitions.

So, we assume that Dr. Jekyll does have some part of his personality that encompasses the rage and homicidal desire of Mr. Hyde, but is buried within his consciousness. His drug (PCP) reduces the inhibition holding this desire back and adds in the paranoia and violence to truly let Mr. Hyde free.

Though we are discussing literature and not an actual case, this is not a far fetched hypothesis. Indeed one real life horror, Charles Manson, used drugs to help induce the right frame of mind in his followers to commit horrible murders.

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