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Poison Arrows: The amazing story of how Prozac and anaesthetics were developed from deadly jungle poison darts

"[Feldman's] topic is an important one but has a longer history than he seems to recognise. Curare, the paralytic arrow poison from South America, together with its derivatives and congeners, has unquestionably been a crucial element of the revolution in modern anaesthesia. But in the wider story of how nerve cells communicate with one another and with their target organs, such as muscles, glands and the heart, curare was never the central factor that Feldman — with an anaesthetist's understandable passion for these drugs — wants his readers to believe. … Feldman's chemistry seems remarkably meagre. He refers to sodium and potassium molecules as often as he calls them ions, so it is no surprise that subtle matters, such as the importance of molecular affinities in driving reactions, are presented maladroitly. Just as bad, he seems not to recognize that when he and other anaesthetists measure muscular contractions in curarised patients or volunteers, this is an exceedingly indirect (and potentially fallacious) means of judging how much acetylcholine — the relevant transmitter — has been released from the nerve."

Link to full book review in Nature