UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Drug induced Excited Delirium

Keywords: EDS, Excited Delirium (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/2/2017 by Kathy Prybys, DO
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Excited delirium syndrome (EDS) is a life-threatening condition caused by a variety of factors including drug intoxication.  EDS is defined as altered mental status, hyperadrenergic state, and combativeness or aggressiveness. It is characterized by tolerance to significant pain, tachypnea, diaphoresis, severe agitation, hyperthermia, non-compliance or poor awareness to direction from police or medical personnel, lack of fatigue, superhuman strength, and inappropriate clothing for the current environment. These patients are at high risk for sudden death. Toxins associated with this syndrome include:

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Synthetic cathinones ("Bath salts")Mephedrone, Methylone,  Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), designer drugs similar to amphetamine.
  • Synthetic cannbinoids

Ketamine at 4mg/kg dose can be given by intramuscular route and has been demonstrated to be safe and effective treatment for EDS.


Top 10 Facts You Need to Know About Synthetic Cannabinoids: Not So Nice Spice Kemp, Ann M. et al. The American Journal of Medicine , Volume 129 , Issue 3 , 240 - 244.

Synthetic cannabinoid drug use as a cause or contributory cause of death. Labay, LM. et al. Forensic Science International , Volume 260 , 31 - 39.

Sudden Death Due To Acute Cocaine Toxicity—Excited Delirium in a Body Packer. Sheilds, LB, Rolf CM, et al. J Forensic Sci, 2015. 60: 1647–1651.

Excited Delirium and Sudden Death: A Syndromal Disorder at the Extreme End of the Neuropsychiatric Continuum.  Mash, DC.Frontiers in Physiology. 2016; 7:435. 

Prehospital Ketamine is a Safe and Effective Treatment for Excited Delirium in a Community Hospital Based EMS System, Scaggs, TR, Glass, DM, et al. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 2016 31(5), 563–569.