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In Brief
Medical Botany
Datura: A Deadly Deliriant

By A. Basu1 and S.K. Basu2

Guyana Journal, June 2012

Delirium is a neuro-behavorial disorder which is characterized by disorientation, disturbed consciousness and disturbance in the sleep-wakefulness cycle of a person. It is a common finding in people of more than 65 years of age (Mendez & Gershfield, 2004). But delirium may also be produced in an otherwise healthy person by administration of certain agents in order to perform some criminal activities on that person. Among such agents, Datura (Datura fastuosa) is most readily used (Karmakar, 2007). Other species belonging to the genus are D. hummatu and D. metel. The seeds of Datura contain chemicals like hyoscine, hyoscyamine, daturine and atropine that produce parasympatholytic actions in the central nervous system to cause delirium like symptoms. They are used mainly as stupefying agents to ease the performance of theft, burglary, rape and kidnapping (Karmakar, 2007).

Signs and Symptoms of Datura Poisoning
The symptoms of Datura poisoning are locally described in quite a romantic fashion. They are:

1. Hot as a hare (due to severe rise of body temperature of the person to 107 0F)
2. Dry as a bone (due to dryness in the mouth and throat)
3. Red as a beet (due to flushing of the face, resulting from cutaneous vasodilatation)
4. Blind as a bat (due to loss of power of accommodation)
5. Mad as a hen (due to performance of some ludicrous activities including carphologia).

All these features are encountered in the delirium stage of poisoning. In severe cases of poisoning, however, the person may become comatose and death may result from respiratory failure (Karmakar, 2007). Diagnosis of Datura poisoning may be done by the Mydriatic Test (Reddy, 2009).
Treatment of Datura Poisoning
The treatment regimen for Datura poisoning is as follows:

1. Moist oxygen inhalation
2. Stomach wash with solution of potassium permanganate
3. Prostigmin 0.5 mg single dose Intramuscular (IM); may be repeated 2-3 hourly till patient recovers
4. Cold sponging
5. Intra-occular instillation of eserine solution 25 % to counteract mydriasis.

Karmakar, R.N. 2007. Toxicology. In: Karmakar (ed.) J.B. Mukherjee's Forensic medicine and toxicology. Academic Pub. pp. 902-1207.
Reddy, K.S. 2009. Deliriant poisons. The essentials of forensic medicine and toxicology. KSD, Hyderabad, pp. 532-536.
Mendez, M. & Gershfield, D. 2004. Delirium. In: Bradley et al. (eds.) Neurology in clinical practice. Utterworth Einemann Co. pp. 29-41.

1Medical College Kolkata, WB India
2Lethbridge College, AB, Canada;