How does cyanide work?

Ever wondered how the classic movie poison worked? Well now you can find out below.


Hello people, it’s me again, back to give you another migraine trying to understand our world. Anyway today’s topic is one that I thought of while watching doctor who.

So, I’m sure that you have all heard of cyanide, it is a very fast acting posion that is commonly used in films and TV series. I’m going to explain how it works, the first thing that you have to know is that you come into contact with cyanide everyday in many things. The fact is they are not all deadly.

Cyanide at it’s base is just carbon and nitrogen chemically bonded. The deadly variations of cyandide are; potassium cyanide (KCN), sodium cyanide (NaCN), hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl).

So how does cyanide work? Well, in a nut shell cyandide stops your mitochondria being able to use oxygen to create energy and this kills you. The cyanide ion, CN-, binds to the iron atom in cytochrome oxidase in the mitochondria of cells. It acts as an irreversible enzyme inhibitor, preventing cytochrome  oxidase from doing its job, which is to take the electrons to oxygen in the electron transport chain of aerobic cellular respiration.

This then prevents the mitochondria from being able to use the oxygen and this then stops them from being able to create carrier adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is what tissue cells such as heart muscles and nerve cells use as an energy source, with this energy gone they quickly expend all of their stored energy and die. This all happens very quickly and once enough of your critical cells die, you will die.

Thank you everyone for reading, I hope you enjoyed and learned something new. It was a bit of longer more complex post this time with much more in depth science. Tell me if you enjoy this way or if you prefer when I just scrape the surface. Anyway, follow for more, like if you liked it and peace.