How is the cause of an altered mental status differentiated in cocaine toxicity?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020
  • Author: Lynn Barkley Burnett, MD, EdD, JD; Chief Editor: Sage W Wiener, MD  more...
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A number of etiologic possibilities are possible, including toxic (eg, drug intoxication, withdrawal), metabolic, structural or traumatic, infectious, epileptic, or psychogenic causes.

A simple toxicologic presentation is rare. Therefore, it is frequently necessary to differentiate agitation secondary to various intoxicants, withdrawal, or possibly both. In the agitated patient with extreme irritability, irrationality, and destructiveness, intoxication or withdrawal should be considered.

Cocaine causes a sympathomimetic toxidrome, as do amphetamines, hallucinogens, and PCP; PCP causes the most persistent psychophysiologic reactions. Withdrawal from alcohol or sedative-hypnotics may cause the triad of hyperthermia, agitated delirium, and seizures.

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