Most of us have heard of pepper spray. It is used by military and police forces to subdue dangerous criminals in a non-lethal way. Popular shows, such as “Cops” and “CSI” have shown or portrayed pepper spray being used to stop attackers. Some of these attackers are under the influence of very dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamines, hallucinogenics, and extremely high amounts of alcohol and unknown mixtures of any number of drugs. These drugs can make users stronger, less susceptible to pain and more volatile. So, how is it that one substance, such as pepper spray, can stop them all? Why is it so effective?
The Science Behind the Spray
Pepper spray is a derivative of cayenne pepper, more specifically, various parts of the cayenne pepper plant. When this derivative is sprayed on an assailant, it invades the lungs, eyes and sinuses. Once there, it causes burning and swelling, incapacitating the would-be assailant. A person that has been sprayed with pepper spray cannot fight back because he or she cannot breathe. The inability to breath stops the attacker, regardless of the drug or drugs he or she may be on.
The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin. It is the same ingredient that gives cayenne and other peppers their sting. However, with pepper spray, the capsaicin is extremely concentrated, resulting in what is known as a substance called oleoresin capsicum. Once introduced to the respiratory system, oleoresin capsicum has the ability to render any individual helpless.