The Pain Of Pepper Spray

Pepper SprayWhen it comes to self-defense tools, people have different options. They can opt for martial arts training, a personal firearm, or virtually anything usable as a makeshift melee weapon. People may also opt for a relatively simple tool that doesn’t require training: pepper spray. A popular self-defense weapon for civilians (and even law enforcers), pepper spray is readily accessible from local outlets or online stores such as Mighty Defenses.

Pepper spray’s popularity is mainly due to its effectiveness. It’s a non-lethal self-defense tool that works best as a stunner. Spray some into an attacker’s face, and you’ll buy enough time to escape by temporarily incapacitating the perpetrator. But how does it work?

When Spice Isn’t Nice

Victims of pepper spray are in for a bad time. During a series of protests at the University of California, Davis in 2011, demonstrators are doused with a huge amount of pepper spray. One of them is student David Busco, which claimed that the pain is like “thousands of pieces of glass shooting into the eyes.”

Pepper spray’s potent agent is the substance capsaicin. It’s the same thing that makes chili spicy. Capsaicin induces a ‘burning’ sensation by binding to the taste receptors on the tongue (as well as the surfaces of the eyes, lungs, and skin). Since capsaicin is an irritant, it stays bonded to vulnerable tissue until alcohol or vegetable oils dissolve it. Mammal’s milk (not instant, powdered milk) also helps because of casein, which ‘washes’ away capsaicin-like detergent washes away grease.

Capsaicin is also classified as an inflammatory agent. It induces discomfort by amplifying allergic sensations, as well as the sensitivity of everything it touches. But then, this is the least of the worries of pepper spray victims. In the right concentration, pepper spray can even cause respiratory and cardiac problems. It’s been tested lethal on mice in the right amounts—118.8 mg per kg of capsaicin is lethal to half of the mice in laboratory tests, according to a 2004 study by the University of North Carolina.

Science backs pepper spray’s effectiveness, so use it as much as you can.