Cocaine-induced psychosis and sudden death in recreational cocaine users

C. V. Wetli, D. A. Fishbain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Fatal cocaine intoxication presenting as an excited delirium is described in seven recreational cocaine users. Symptoms began with the acute onset of an intense paranoia, followed by bizarre and violent behavior necessitating forcible restraint. The symptoms were frequently accompanied by unexpected strength and hyperthermia. Fatal respiratory collapse occurred suddenly and without warning, generally within a few minutes to an hour after the victim was restrained. Five of the seven died while in police custody. Blood concentration of cocaine averaged 0.6 mg/L, about ten times lower than that seen in fatal cocaine overdoses. Police, rescue personnel, and emergency room physicians should be aware that excited delirium may be the result of a potentially fatal cocaine intoxication; its appearance should prompt immediate transport of the victim to a medical facility. Continuous monitoring, administration of appropriate cocaine antagonists, and respiratory support will hopefully avert a fatal outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-880
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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