This U.S. Army training film from the year 1958 “Nerve Gases Part II: Use of Injection Instruments” presents information about the emergency treatment administered after nerve gas exposure. It specifically examines the use of injection instruments to administer the medicine atropine. At 1:37 an instructor shows the atropine syringe which is provided with every Army gas mask kit. At 2:33 a syrette of the drug is shown and its use described. The syrette is a device for injecting liquid through a needle. It is similar to a syringe except that it has a closed flexible tube instead of a rigid tube and piston.
At 7:28 an ampule of atropine is shown. An ampoule (also ampul, ampule, or ampulla) is a small sealed vial which is used to contain and preserve a sample, usually a solid or liquid. Ampoules are commonly made of glass, although plastic ampoules do exist. At 11:46 medics are seen administering shots at an Army medical station. At 12:36 self-administration of the drug is demonstrated. At 13:20 an African-American soldier receives needle injection in the classroom.
Atropine is a medication used to treat certain types of nerve agent and pesticide poisonings as well as some types of slow heart rate and to decrease saliva production during surgery. It is typically given intravenously or by injection into a muscle. Eye drops are also available which are used to treat uveitis and early amblyopia.The intravenous solution usually begins working within a minute and lasts half an hour to an hour. Large doses may be required to treat some poisonings.
Common side effects include a dry mouth, large pupils, urinary retention, constipation, and a fast heart rate. It should generally not be used in people with angle closure glaucoma. While there is no evidence that its use during pregnancy causes birth defects, it has not been well studied. It is likely safe during breastfeeding. It is an antimuscarinic (a type of anticholinergic) that works by inhibiting the parasympathetic nervous system.
Atropine occurs naturally in a number of plants of the nightshade family including deadly nightshade, Jimson weed, and mandrake. It was first isolated in 1833. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. It is available as a generic medication and is not very expensive. A one-milligram vial costs between US$0.06 and US$0.44, wholesale, in the developing world.
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