Clinical manifestations and prognostic features of acute methamphetamine intoxication

by Lan KC, Lin YF, Yu FC, Lin CS, Chu P
Department of Emergency Medicine,
Tri-Service General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.
J Formos Med Assoc 1998 Aug; 97(8):528-33


The prevalence of amphetamine abuse and the frequency of emergency department visits for amphetamine intoxication have increased dramatically worldwide. In this study, we retrospectively investigated the relationship between the prognostic features and clinical manifestations among patients admitted to the emergency department of a university hospital for acute methamphetamine intoxication during a 6-year period. Data collected included gender, age, route of abuse, time between drug exposure and arrival at the emergency department, estimated dose, signs and symptoms, laboratory values, and complications. Emergency therapy and cooling procedures were also recorded. After excluding 26 patients with multiple-drug intoxication, 18 patients (male-to-female ratio, 11:7) were include in the analysis. The mean age was 25.6 years. Thirteen patients survived and five died. Patients who died often presented with coma (80% vs 0%, p = 0.002), shock (60% vs 8%, p = 0.044), convulsions (100% vs 23%, p = 0.007), oliguria (80% vs 0%, p = 0.002), and high body temperature (41.4 +/- 0.5 degrees C vs 39.4 +/- 2.1 degrees C, p = 0.005). Furthermore, patients who died had significantly higher concentrations of blood urea nitrogen (8.7 +/- 2.1 vs 5.6 +/- 2.0 mmol/L, p = 0.01) and serum creatinine (212 +/- 71 vs 115 +/- 27 mumol/L, p = 0.033), and lower values of arterial pH (7.12 +/- 0.12 vs 7.34 +/- 0.10, p = 0.03), than those who survived. In the fatality group, the most common complication was rhabdomyolysis with acute renal failure (5 of 5); multiple organ failure resembling that from heatstroke was the leading cause of death from acute methamphetamine intoxication. In conclusion, the adverse prognostic features in patients with acute methamphetamine intoxication include coma, shock, convulsion, oliguria, and high core temperature. Acidosis, volume depletion, and ischemic renal damage were potential risk factors for development of acute renal failure in these patients.