The Visine Murder Prank | Nurse Admits to Murdering Her Husband with Eye Drops
The Visine prank, popularized in movies like “The Wedding Crashers” and others is supposed to be a harmless prank. Unfortunately for Steven Clayton, the CEO of Physical Therapy Resources, his wife, Lana Sue Clayton, knew just enough about the toxic potential of Visine to do him in. She turned the Visine prank into the Visine Murder Prank.
The Visine prank is an old trick that a lot of bartenders know – a customer is being a jerk, so just squirt a little Visine into his beer or whiskey and voila – within a half-hour or so the jerk makes a hasty exit to either the bathroom or he craps his pants.
Same trick is used by flight attendants. If a passenger is being a real jerk, the caring flight attendant will wait until just before the flight touches down and offer the jerk a drink – some coffee or water to make up for the miserable flight he has suffered through. Of course the free drink comes with a dash of Visine in it and the effects begin just as the jerk is collecting his baggage or is exiting the airport and merging onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for the long drive home – exactly the time you wouldn’t want to be dealing with diarrhea. My aunt was a flight attendant for many years and told me about the Visine trick years ago. Whether or not a few drops of Visine will lead to uncontrollable, explosive diarrhea is debatable, but the nervous-system depressing and cardiovascular toxicity is real and can lead to The Visine murder prank.
The active ingredient in Visine is tetrahydrozaline HCL 0.05% – an imidazoline chemical that has central and peripheral acting α-2 agonist activity, which means that it stimulates the same receptors in the brain that are stimulated by clonidine and other powerful blood-pressure lowering medications. Naphazoline (the active ingredient in Naphcon-A and some other over-the-counter decongestant sprays) is another example of an imidazole chemical. Visine makes red eyes clear because it causes the blood vessels in the eyes to constrict. If you drink Visine, the chemical affects the central nervous system to shut it down (along with the cardiovascular system – never a good thing).
Ingested Visine can lead to central α-2 receptor stimulation which inhibits vasomotor centers, causing vasodilatation and a drop in blood pressure. Additional signs and symptoms of imidazoline toxicity include lethargy, coma, respiratory depression, bradycardia, hypotension, hypothermia, constricted pupils and blurred vision. Most of the time, doctors can treat imidazoline poisoning with simple supportive measures, intravenous fluids and observation but depending on the severity of the poisoning, more critical care measures might be needed including mechanical ventilatory support and vasopressors to elevate the heart rate and blood pressure.
How much Visine is necessary to really poison someone? Well, really small people don’t require much at all – a paper published 20+ years ago described a case series in which children under the age of five years old that got into smaller bottles of Visine (less than 10mL) generally didn’t develop any symptoms but kids that got into 15mL or (worse!) 30mL bottles developed pretty severe symptoms. A full 15mL bottle of Visine contain 750 milligrams of the tetrahydrozoline HCL (the 30mL bottle contains twice that). The LD50 for mice is around 345 mg/Kg so an entire 15mL bottle probably wouldn’t kill a typical 70kg man but it would make him pretty sick.
Just before he graduated from toxicology fellowship, my old buddy Bill Boroughf solved a case of Munchausen’s by Proxy in Philadelphia when he figured out that a limp, floppy child had actually presented to several other hospitals in the area with the same unusual symptoms. He admitted the child and ran tetrahydrozoline determinations on the child’e urine which were ridiculously elevated. Bill undoubtedly saved that child’s life.
Lana Sue Clayton admitted to spiking her husband’s water with an unknown amount of Visine over the course of 3 days. She is a nurse. I have no doubt she was knew what she was doing, trying to injure and probably kill her husband and will spend the rest of her life in jail. In this case, the Visine murder prank turned out not to be a prank, but a homicide.