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Methamphetamine Exposures in Young Children

Matteucci, Michael J. MD*†; Auten, Jonathan D. DO; Crowley, Brian MS; Combs, Daniel MD; Clark, Richard F. MD*

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31814a6a79
Original Articles

Objectives: Methamphetamine abuse is reaching epidemic proportions. As this occurs, the likelihood of accidental poisoning in children increases. We sought to evaluate the presentation, treatment, and outcome of pediatric methamphetamine exposures reported to the California Poison Control System.

Methods: This is a retrospective review of California Poison Control System records for methamphetamine exposure from 2000 through 2004. All charts of patients identified as younger than 6 years were reviewed and abstracted.

Results: The charts of 47 children younger than 6 years were identified and reviewed. Three were coded as minor effects, 3 as major effects, and 16 as moderate effects. The remainder of the charts were not evaluated because of no effect (n = 6), unrelated or confirmed nonexposure (n = 3), or unable to follow (n = 16). The most common presenting symptom was agitation (82%), whereas seizures were documented in only 2 cases (9%). Tachycardia was common (mean heart rate, 171 beats/min; confidence interval [CI], 154-187), whereas blood pressure (BP) (mean systolic BP, 120 mm Hg; CI, 104-136; and mean diastolic BP, 70 mm Hg; CI, 51-88) and rectal temperature (mean, 37.4°C; CI, 36.9-37.9) were slightly elevated compared with normal values. Creatinine was documented in 6 cases and noted as normal in all (0.3IU/L; CI, 0.2-0.4), whereas creatine kinase was documented in 3 charts and elevated in all (mean 1984 IU/L; range, 212-4942 IU/L). Most cases (55%) received benzodiazepines as treatment, although only 2 received activated charcoal. Symptoms persisted for an average of 22 hours (CI, 16.3-27.2). No deaths were reported.

Conclusions: In this series of children, methamphetamine exposure was strongly associated with agitation that was successfully treated with benzodiazepines. Tachycardia was common, although hypertension and hyperthermia were not. Laboratory studies were not routinely recorded. The clinical significance of elevated creatine kinase concentrations recorded in 3 children is unclear.

*Division of Medical Toxicology, University of California San Diego Medical Center; †Department of Emergency Medicine, Naval Medical Center and ‡University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, CA.

No financial support was received for this research.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, nor the US Government.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael J. Matteucci, MD, Division of Medical Toxicology, University of California San Diego Medical Center, 200 W Arbor Dr No. 8925, San Diego, CA 92103-8925. E-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.