Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Herbal mind altering substances: an unknown quantity?
  1. C Doughty1,
  2. A Walker2,
  3. J Brenchley3
  1. 1Emergency Department, Arrowe Park Hospital, Upton, Merseyside, UK
  2. 2Emergency Department, Pontefract General Infirmary, Pontefract, UK
  3. 3Emergency Department, Barnsley District General Hospital, Barnsley, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Walker
 Emergency Department, Pontefract General Infirmary, Friarwood Lane, Pontefract WF8 1PL, UK;

Statistics from

Herbal drugs are increasingly marketed as a “safe” alternative to illicit drugs. The variety of constituents in these compounds and their potential pharmacological activity can present difficulties for the emergency physician in management of intoxicated patients. After a case at a recent music festival, we present a case report and review of herbal compounds.


A 17 year old women was brought to the festival medical base by first aid ambulance. Friends said she had taken herbal drugs (“road runners”) and alcohol. She was fully conscious, hyperventilating, tachycardic (pulse 155 bpm) with dilated pupils (6 mm). She became increasingly agitated and five minutes after arrival had a grand mal seizure, which was terminated with 5 mg intravenous diazemuls. She was transferred to a local emergency department and on arrival was fully alert, but still tachycardic. She was also noted to have nystagmus at this time. Routine blood tests (full blood count, urea, and electrolytes) were normal. She had no previous history of seizures. After a period of four hours of observation, she was discharged home with a responsible adult.

There is little awareness among healthcare professionals of these drugs and possible side …

View Full Text

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.