what is pepper spray and why does it hurt so much?

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what is pepper spray and why does it hurt so much?

In: Culture

Its literally hot pepper spray – its made from capsaicin, the same chemical that makes hot peppers … hot.

You know how when you are chopping some jalapeno peppers for a chilli or something spicy and you rub your eyes or maybe rub your nose or somewhere your skin is sensitive without washing your hands really well then that area where you rubbed starts to burn a bit? That’s the capsaicin irritating your skin/mucous membranes.

So that’s just the capsaicin that was in the water of the pepper and you weren’t getting a concentrated dose directly to your eyes. Now imagine that burning but 1000x stronger and you get it blasted directly into your eyeballs, its aerosolized so its in the air, you breathe it, suddenly your eyes and breathing passages are _burning_.

I have a few cop friends and I asked one if he would spray me so I could feel what it was like. He wouldn’t, but next time I was eating tacos he offered to spray a bit on one of them. It was pretty hot, but tasted awful.

I have been OC sprayed (for work) and I think I have a generally good understanding of the science of what makes spicy things “hot.” What most people refer to as “pepper spray” is really OC spray. OC stands for Oleoresin Capsicum.

The capsaicin from hot peppers is refined into a concentrated, powdered form. It is then diluted significantly to between .18-.22% OC (for military grade OC spray) but other sprays may have more or less.

The reason that capsaicin *burns* is because of how the chemical interacts with your nerve cells. The chemical will “drop” the temperature at which your nerve will send the “this thing is hot” impulse to your brain.

So a 110 degree Fahrenheit plain chicken wing which might not cause your mouth to tell your brain “oh shit this is hot.” However, if the same wing is covered in sauce made from hot peppers, now the cells in your mouth will send the same impulse “this thing has a high temperature” more times. This will cause you to perceive it as “hotter” than it really is.

Now OC spray is the same thing, but in your eyes and on the surface of your skin. Your cells are telling your brain that they are at a super high temperature (when they haven’t really heated up at all).