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Contained within this post is some information about the new James Bond film,
The point I'm warning people about above is this. That without giving too much away the villain in the new Bond movie says that in the past he took a cyanide pill that didn't work. This part is obvious as otherwise he wouldn't still be around to wreak havoc. I went to see this film with my friends the other night, and on the way home after dicussing a particularly grim bit my friend turned to me and asked 'is it even possible to survive cyanide?'. I get ignored when they try and take three Paracetamols at a time, yet they assume I know the answer to this. Regardless I decided to do some research.
The most common form of cyanide found in these 'suicide pills' is potassium cyanide. In a high enough dose it causes histotoxic hypoxia, which is when cells are unable to use oxygen. This is primarily done through the inhibition of cytochrome C oxidase, resulting in the body being unable to use the mitochondrial electron transport chain to create ATP. Due to this the symptoms are very similar to those of suffocation apart from the sufferer will appear red due to the oxygen being trapped in the red blood cells. Cyanide kills rapidly and an ingested dose could kill within mere minutes, and more scarily a large enough inhaled dose only takes seconds. Lethal doses needed are from between 200 to 300mg, although depending on the person it could take as little as 1.5mg per kg of body weight.
There are many myths surrounding cyanide for example people believe that suicide pills are given to astronauts for in case they can't make it back down to Earth. Although this has been hastily denied by all involved parties. With regards to surviving a poisoning I have not found sufficient evidence that people have specifically survived suicide pills. Although if an acute poisoning is caught quickly enough then survival is not so far fetched. So theoretically Mr Silva's survival is feasible, but I'm sure the screen writers did their research when developing the character and his back story. On another note Rasputin was also supposed to have survived being given enough cyanide to kill five men. Unlike Mr Silva's tale this I highly doubt.
Cyanide pills is also a band from Leeds, which did complicate every internet search containing these words.