The word poison is derived from the Latin “Potus“ which means to drink. The term “Potus” became “potio” and then poison in old French, a drink that could harm or kill.

Any substance, if taken in any account, by any route, produces harmful effects (i.e. disease, deformity, or death, the 3 D’s) over the body then it will be called poison.

The study of poisons and their different properties is known as Toxicology. The study of medical and legal aspects of poisons is known as forensic toxicology.

Sections related to Poisons- IPC section- 284, 299, 300, 304A, 324, 326, and 328.

Routes of Poison Administration

A route of administration is defined as the path by which a drug, fluid, poison, or any other substance is taken into the body. Routes of poison administration are generally categorized by the location at which the substance is applied.

The most common examples are oral and intravenous poison administration. Routes of administration of poisons are highly dependent on target of the action. These can be categorized as

  1. Enteral Routes:- These routes allow the direct administration of poison into the body i.e., the mouth, rectum, vagina, urethra, nose, eyes, etc. Oral administration is the most common and widely used route of poison administration. This is the easiest route for the administration of poison as the tongue and saliva have high absorption capacity. It transfers the drug or poison into the gastrointestinal tract for further absorption in the body. It involves the sublingual (above the tongue) and sublingual ( below the tongue) routes, that absorb the drug within the mouth. According to the action of the poison, this is the slowest route as the toxic substance reached the target after being metabolized in the liver, which is a time-consuming process.
  2. Parenteral Routes– Through this route, the drug or poison is administered in the body through injections that inject the drug directly into the target organ via the bloodstream. The injections used can be intradermal (directly through the skin), intravenous (through veins), intra-arterial (through arteries), intraperitoneal (directly to the peritoneum), intramuscular (directly into the muscles), subcutaneous (injections into the fatty tissues of the skin), or intraosseous (through bone marrow). The parenteral route directly injects the toxic substance into the bloodstream which carries it to the targeted organ faster than the enteral route.
  3. Inhalation– There are a lot of toxic drugs that are administered through the route of the nose, either accidentally (leakage of poisonous gas) or intentionally (drug addiction). The mucous membrane present in the nose easily absorbs the drugs quickly and transports them to the lungs. From the lungs, they get into the blood and affect the whole body system almost immediately. This is the fastest route for drug administration that directly reaches the lungs and is directed to the targeted organ.
  4. Dermal– Certain drugs can be absorbed into the body just by rubbing them on the skin, in the form of gels or emulsions.
  5. Natural Orifices– All the natural orifices including the vagina, rectum, urethra, eyes, etc. also act as a route for the administration of poison in the body. The poisons can also be administered in the body through an open wound.

Talking about the speed of the absorption of toxic substances from the various routes the order goes as follows

Inhalation >Parenteral >Natural Orifices >Dermal >Enteral

Various Routes of Poison Administartion
Various Routes of Poison Administration

Actions of Poison

A drug or any toxic substance administered by an individual shows several effects on the body depending on the nature of the substance and the route of administration. These effects are produced by the actions of the drugs on the body that can be classified as follows:

Local Actions:- These are observed on the site from where the drug was administered, especially the skin, mucosa, etc. Example- corrosive poisons

Remote Actions:- These actions occur after the absorption of the poison or drug into the body. They can be specific (organ or target specific, as opioids act on CNS, nicotine acts on the heart, Strychnine is a spinal poison, etc.) or non-specific (like shock, blisters, etc. similar to any mechanical injuries or thermal injuries, etc.). Examples- are corrosive poisons, organic poisons, etc.

Local and Remote Actions:- These actions act synergetically with each other. Examples are carbolic acid, oxalic acids, etc.

General Actions:- These actions are a combination of effects that are not limited to a particular system. Examples are metallic poisons.


The route of administration of poison is an important factor determining the action of the poison on the body of an individual. There are many routes for the administration of poison as discussed above that also decides the fate of the drug or poison in the body.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the quickest route of administration of poison?

Injecting a drug inside the body through a syringe is the fastest route of administration of drugs. Through this method, the drug is directly injected into the veins and circulated through blood in the entire body.

2. What is the Strongest Poison in the world?

Botulinum Toxin is the strongest poison in the world. It is a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It prevents the release of acetylcholine from the axon end of neuromuscular junctions and causes flaccid paralysis.

3. Which Poison is Known as The Queen of Poison?

Aconite which is also known as wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, queen of poisons, or blue rocket. Amounts as small as 2g could be lethal. Even though it’s poisonous, it is still used for medicinal purposes.

Categories: Toxicology


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