My idea is that the agent is absorbed quickly into the skin and will cause localized paralysis of muscles. It is housed in a paintball esque container, that soaks the target in impact. This is largely meant for crowd control and non-violent take downs.

My question is: Could something like this actually work and is the delivery system viable?

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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not the liquid exists is another story, but the delivery concept is definitely viable. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 19 '17 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want to know if paintball works, if there is such a liquid, if it would help taking down people, if it is viable for crowd control or maybe something completely different? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 19 '17 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ VX. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 19 '17 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Yep. VX was my first thought after reading title too. Unfortunately it tends to be rather permanent in effect. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 20 '17 at 1:03

It doesn't work for your goal

There are many compounds that cause local paralysis on contact (one example is Monkshood which contains Aconitine). However, few of them cause only local paralysis.

For non-violent crowd control you'd want something that acts fast and has no lasting effects.

The problem with this is that anything that acts fast on a person with a lot of body mass will be lethal to a person with little body mass. And a dose that will paralyze a light person will be much less noticeable to a heavy person. And next to this, resistance varies from person to person as well.
All of this and more is why Anesthesiologists require a lot of training. And their job is exactly what you want to achieve with a single paint ball.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus, paralyzing someones hands or legs may get him trip, drown in a puddle on the sidewalk, get trampled by the crowd etc. Another ways how this might get lethal. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 19 '17 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ This is also true for other forms of crowd-control/individual subduing (e.g.: tasers). Standard procedure would be to fill the paintball with largely insufficient amount of toxin and keep hitting till he goes down. Causalities would be possible, but probably on par with other "conventional" methods (which are far from being fool-proof!). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Jun 19 '17 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @ZioByte water cannons can break legs, trip someone etc, but at least he can stand up, even if with pain. And on low power they just make people wet, cold and uncomfortable - nothing much worse than heavy rain. Paralysis is worse. All methods have varying levels of risk $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 19 '17 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really want to get into a discussion, but please note I explicitly named "tasers" which are responsible of multiple unwanted deaths. Also "innocuous" things like tear gas or hydrants (water cannons, if you prefer) are responsible of many causalities. In any case I wasn't advocating usage of the device, I was only saying "it's possible". The danger level doesn't seem essentially higher than other means normally used in Europe and fundamentally lower than what's normally used in US (i.e.: lead bullets). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Jun 19 '17 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is that these agents don't work instantly, so you'll shoot someone a few times, they take 10 seconds to go down so you shoot some more and it'll be lethal $\endgroup$ – Swier Jun 19 '17 at 17:46

I'm going to largely agree with Swier's answer that "there are going to be complications" and that you'd have to be careful with your dosages.

But here's the kicker:

It doesn't matter if it can be absorbed through the skin or not.

Dimethyl sulfoxide or DMSO is a chemical that is really really good at one thing: being lipid soluble while also being fairly non-toxic and non-acidic itself. Lipid solubility is the property that lets a chemical absorb through the skin (because your skin is made of cells and cells have a cell wall made of...you guessed it: lipids).

It also has one other interesting property: it will drag literally any other chemical along with it when it passes through the lipid boundary as DMSO is a great solvent.

Use of DMSO in medicine dates from around 1963, when an Oregon Health & Science University Medical School team, headed by Stanley Jacob, discovered it could penetrate the skin and other membranes without damaging them and could carry other compounds into a biological system. In medicine, DMSO is predominantly used as a topical analgesic, a vehicle for topical application of pharmaceuticals, as an anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant.

Take whatever paralytic drug that does what you want it to do, mix it with some DMSO, and fill your paintballs with it. Voila: you've turned any drug you want into a contact-vector drug. Just...don't get any of it on your hands after mixing in your paralytic agent. And if you taste garlic, its probably too late.

The perceived garlic taste upon skin contact with DMSO may be due to nonolfactory activation of TRPA1 receptors in trigeminal ganglia.



Many existing toxins can enter the bloodstream through the skin. Presuming you're using a fictional substance you can simply state "This poison passes through the skin and causes the following symptoms (...)" without even the need to get into the technical aspects of how the toxin passes the skin, it's mechanism and metabolism.

Read for more information about skin absorption


Paralytics must be delivered to an individual with great precision, or they are either ineffective or fatal. So the idea of delivering a paralytic via a paintball, even if it was carried through the skin via DMSO or something similar, would still have to be delivered in the correct amount, or the target will stop breathing. This is why anesthesiologists are paid so much money - it is their job to keep the patient unconscious during an operation, but also keeping them from dying from overmedication.

Some years ago, a Chechen group took over a theater in Russia. The Russian special forces counterattacked, after delivering a 'knockout gas', believed to be an opiate derivative, through the theater's ventilation system. About 100 or so out of 400 people held captive died by suffocation, not immediately, but because the rescue people who came in afterward were not told to keep the hostages upright. Those left lying down suffocated from an inability to breathe properly.

At least with current med tech, there is no way to 'knock someone out' without knowing precise information on their weight, body mass index, age, current health condition, and even how much they had to eat recently (might puke and choke on it).

As an alternative, it is known that some sounds played in sufficient volume, can reduce the target to a severe state of nausea and even unconsciousness. You might think about a knockout gun along those lines... plus earplugs for the person using such a device.


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