Epileptogenic properties of cocaine in humans

A. K. Dhuna, A. Pascual-Leone, F. Langendorf, David C Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Ninety-eight of 945 patients admitted to Hennepin County Medical Center with acute medical complications of cocaine intoxication presented with seizures within 90 min of cocaine ingestion. Cocaine-related seizures were most frequently single, generalized convulsions, and these individuals all had normal cranial CT and EEG. Of the 945 patients, 18.4% of the women presented with seizures, compared with only 6.2% of the men. All subjects who presented with new onset focal seizures following cocaine ingestion had acute cocaine-related cerebral strokes or hemorrhages. Individuals with a history of cocaine-unrelated seizures, had their typical convulsions precipitated with 'recreational' doses of cocaine. All four subjects with status epilepticus had ingested massive doses of cocaine, were resistant to medical treatment, and had significant mohbidity and mortality. We were able to characterize four subgroups of subjects at risk for cocaine-related convulsions. First, individuals who had ingested massive doses of cocaine (2 - 8 gms) in whom cocaine induced seizures by its direct, dose-related convulsant effects. Second, individuals with a history of epilepsy had their typical seizures precipitated by lowering the seizure threshold. Third, females are at greater risk for cocaine-related compared to males. Fourth, years of chronic, habitual cocaine abuse may result in 'chemical' kindling of epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-626
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 17 1991


  • cocaine
  • epileptogenesis
  • human
  • seizures


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