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  • Updated 06.09.2021
  • Released 10.08.2008
  • Expires For CME 06.09.2024

Illicit drug use: neurologic complications



The author describes the clinical features of intoxication and withdrawal of the major illicit drugs, as well as the neurologic complications often encountered in users, including seizures, stroke, and cognitive dysfunction. During 2020, the United States continued to experience an epidemic of opioid abuse as well as recreational use of synthetic cannabinoid agents marketed as “Spice” and “K2” and these problems were exacerbated by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key points

• In addition to overdose, major complications of illicit drug use include trauma, infection, seizures, stroke, persistent cognitive impairment, and teratogenic effects.

• A seizure in an illicit drug user can have an indirect cause, such as cerebral contusion or CNS infection, or can be a manifestation of direct toxicity or withdrawal (eg, barbiturate).

• Evidence has increasingly demonstrated that a number of drugs can cause lasting neuropsychiatric impairment.

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