Wernicke’s Encephalopathy in Crack-Cocaine Addiction

Abstract

Hypothesis

Crack-cocaine addiction is associated with a variety of conditions that increase risk of thiamine deficiency and Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

Evidence

We report a case of Wernicke’s encephalopathy in a crack-cocaine addict who did not habitually consume alcohol. We list some conditions associated with crack-cocaine addiction that may contribute to thiamine deficiency.

Implications

Clinicians should bear in mind that crack-cocaine addiction may be associated with Wernicke’s encephalopathy, mainly due to malnutrition. We suggest that routine Wernicke’s encephalopathy prophylaxis with parenteral thiamine be provided to patients with chronic crack-cocaine addiction, as is already established practice in chronic alcoholics, so as to prevent cognitive damage in this population.

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