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June 21, 1976

Attempted Suicide by Black Widow Spider Bite

Author Affiliations

Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center Richmond, Calif

JAMA. 1976;235(25):2718-2719. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260510012011

To the Editor.—  Suicide by envenomation has been portrayed in classical literature in such dramatic events as Cleopatra's clasping the asp to her bosom. A 36-year-old man seen in this hospital's emergency room in June 1971 stated that he had been bitten by a black widow spider. He had captured the arachnid; it was indeed identified by the county health department as Lactrodectus mactans. No puncture site was found. He complained of soreness in the leg and back; a short while later he had perioral numbness, contractions of the abdominal wall, and malaise, followed by muscular cramps, particularly severe in the back and legs.Treatment during the first day of hospitalization included Lactrodectus antiserum (2.5 ml intramuscularly), dexamethasone, corticotropin, methocarbamol, calcium gluconate, and diazepam. Mild abdominal cramping over the ensuing 24 hours was relieved by methocarbamol. Twentyfour hours after admission, an ecchymotic lesion developed on the right leg. On the