What about the good ol’ movie/television standby, rag soaked in chloroform? Is it as fast as they make it seem? Is the victim in significant danger?

It’s fast enough that it was used for general anesthesia. If inhaled, I’d go out on a limb and say under 30 seconds. Once the chloroform is discontinued, a couple minutes before they’re back up and groggy.

The problem is, chloroform is actually more dangerous as a general anesthetic than diethyl ether (which it replaced), and why it was discontinued. You can use either one to put someone under for surgery, in an emergency, but they’re not ideal choices.

Additionally, as with most general anesthetics, the threshold between sedated and dead is moderated by a good anesthesiologist. Just slapping a rag on someone and hoping for the best tilts the odds towards dead.

Also, a fun distinction with chloroform. At room temperature, it’s highly volatile; that is to say, it evaporates quickly. If you’re looking at the Hollywood rag tactic, you’d need to absolutely saturate the rag right before using it, and you’d be getting a lungful of the stuff yourself. Probably not enough to actually put you under, but it might slow you down a bit.

There is also one major medical issue associated with chloroform; it has a nasty habit of inducing fatal cardiac arrhythmia. (Where the heart beats irregularly.) In a controlled medical environment, this has a frequency of between 1:3000 to 1:6000.

So, yeah, no, Hollywood likes it, because you can stick water in a vial, pour it on a rag, hold it to your actor’s face, and it’s all safe. The reality is not nearly so accommodating.


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