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Phencyclidine Toxicity Treatment & Management

  • Author: Patrick L West, MD; Chief Editor: Asim Tarabar, MD  more...
 
Updated: Apr 20, 2015
 

Prehospital Care

Evaluate and stabilize the patient's airway, breathing, and circulation (ABCs) including cervical spine immobilization if traumatic injury is suspected.

Physical restraints may be required to prevent self-injury and to protect the medical staff. These patients should be monitored closely due to several death reports of PCP-intoxicated patients while being physically restrained.

Chemical restraints may also be used. Establish intravenous access and administer benzodiazepines for patients with severe agitation. Intramuscular benzodiazepines are an alternative if intravenous access is unobtainable.

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Emergency Department Care

Management in the ED includes the following:

  • After addressing and stabilizing the ABCs, treatment of PCP intoxication starts with initial supportive measures (IV, O 2, cardiac monitor). ECG may be indicated to assess for dysrhythmias.
  • Obtain a fingerstick to rule out hypoglycemia.
  • Place patients in a dark, quiet room under continuous observation to minimize environmental stimuli.
  • Consider activated charcoal for oral ingestions and co-ingestions. Multiple doses of charcoal may be beneficial in the case of large overdose. Only one dose of sorbitol should be given, usually with the initial dose. Clinicians should be aware that inappropriate administration of activated charcoal can convert relatively benign exposure (eg, mild PCP intoxication) into a very serious condition (eg, aspiration pneumonia).
  • Extreme violent psychotic behavior requires sedation with parenteral benzodiazepines. Seizures should be treated with benzodiazepines.
  • Haldol (haloperidol) should be reserved for patients with mild, predominately psychotic symptoms, with normal vital signs.
  • Butyrophenones (haloperidol, droperidol) and phenothiazines (eg, chlorpromazine) should be avoided in moderate and severe intoxications because they can lower seizure threshold, cause dystonic reactions, induce hypotension, and worsen anticholinergic symptoms, including hyperthermia.
  • Hyperthermia may be treated by conventional cooling methods.
  • Rhabdomyolysis is treated with intravenous hydration, urine alkalinization, and osmotic/diuretic agents. Possible caveat: There is a theoretical, but clinically unproven, concept of increased PCP reabsorption secondary to the urine alkalinization.
  • For hypertensive emergencies, try to control agitation first with parenteral benzodiazepines. For persistent hypertension, intravenous nitroprusside is the agent of choice. Because of the theoretical concept of unopposed alpha effect (worsening of hypertension) and the availability of other antihypertensive agents (eg, calcium-channel blockers, intravenous nitroglycerin), pure beta-blockade should be avoided. Even labetalol, which has both alpha- (weak) and beta-blocking abilities, can be given only after alpha-blockade with phentolamine is achieved.

Acute PCP toxicity can usually be managed conservatively with an observation period of a few hours. More serious ingestions may require admission to an intensive care unit for days to weeks.

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Consultations

Consult with a board-certified medical toxicologist or a local poison control center for further recommendations.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Patrick L West, MD Clinical Instructor, Medical Toxicology Fellow, Department of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health and Sciences University; Staff Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Robert S Helman, MD Director, Premier Care of Great Neck Urgent Care Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Nathanael J McKeown, DO Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine; Medical Toxicologist, Oregon Poison Center; Attending Physician, Emergency Medicine, Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center

Nathanael J McKeown, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American College of Medical Toxicology, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD Regional Director of Pharmacy, Sacred Heart and St Joseph's Hospitals

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Fred Harchelroad, MD, FACMT, FAAEM, FACEP Attending Physician in Emergency Medicine, Excela Health System

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Asim Tarabar, MD Assistant Professor, Director, Medical Toxicology, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Lance W Kreplick, MD, FAAEM, MMM Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medicine, Fawcett Wound Management and Hyperbaric Medicine; Consulting Staff in Occupational Health and Rehabilitation, Company Care Occupational Health Services; President and Chief Executive Officer, QED Medical Solutions, LLC

Lance W Kreplick, MD, FAAEM, MMM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Association for Physician Leadership

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors, Nicole S Johnson, MD, and Mark A Silverberg, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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