Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lil' Wayne's Syrup Drink Addiction May Have Caused Status Epilepticus

The social media world has been abuzz about rapper, Lil’ Wayne’s seizures and disputed claims that he is in a coma, on life support, and near death at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. A seizure is an overexcitable state of nerve cells in the brain, sometimes leading to sudden, violent, involuntary contractions of a group of muscles and/or manifestations of decreased awareness of environmental surroundings.

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. This can be a result of very high fevers, a structural abnormality in the brain (e.g., brain tumor), bleeding in the brain, a drug overose, or other reasons.

Based on news reports, the most likely cause of Lil’ Wayne’s seizures was an overdose of codeine (a type of pain medication) in prescription cough syrup form that he was addicted to. The syrup was reportedly combined with promethazine, a sedating medication also used to treat psychosis (loss of contact from reality). The syrup, sometimes referred to as sizzurp and purple drank, is known to be highly addictive. It is often combined with sugary sodas (e.g., Mountain Dew) and hard candies (usually Jolly Ranchers) in a Styrofoam cup. It is popular in the hip-hop community and Southern U.S. Wayne is known to have rapped about using the syrup.

It is unknown Wayne added other drugs (e.g., alcohol) to the syrup but many who are addicted to such syrups often do and this is when overdoses are likely to occur. Some reports have said that other prescription drugs were added to the concoction, as well as anti-freeze (due to its sweet taste). Wayne reportedly had his stomach pumped three times to remove the drugs from his system. This technique (also known as a gastric lavage) is frequently used in cases of toxic ingestion. The technique involves passing a tube down the nose or stomach that suctions out the liquid in the stomach in small amounts at a time.

Wayne reportedly had a series of unexplained seizures on 3/12/13 but was released the next day. It was reportedly a short release, with some reports stating he was taken to the intensive care unit the next day after being found unconscious on the floor. Other media reports state he was rushed to the hospital on 3/15/13 and was reported as near death. It is reported that he had seizure prior to this week, several times this year. If so, Wayne appears to have epilepsy, which is defined as recurrent episodes of seizures.

If the news stories are accurate, it is possible that Lil’ Wayne’s recent seizures represent status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency that is characterized by one continuous seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or repeated seizures without regaining consciousness between seizures for more than 5 minutes. Death can occur within 30 days, particularly if immediate treatment does not occur. However, some can and will make a good recovery.

Suggested reading: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy

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