Toxic Leukoencephalopathy Presenting as Lethal Catatonia

J Addict Med. May/Jun 2019;13(3):241-244. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000470.


Introduction: Catatonia is a syndrome that can present in different forms and can occur in multiple psychiatric and somatic conditions. This case report describes lethal catatonia caused by delayed toxic leukoencephalopathy after excessive use of cocaine and methadone. The characteristic radiographic imaging and biphasic course are discussed.

Case report: A 54-year-old woman was presented unconsciously at the emergency department after intoxication with methadone and cocaine. After initial recovery, her condition deteriorated unexpectedly, resulting in lethal catatonia. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed hyperintense white matter abnormalities and diffusion restriction, evident for leukoencephalopathy.

Discussion: Catatonia can develop in multiple psychiatric and somatic diseases, including toxic leukoencephalopathy. A biphasic course and specific MRI findings are characteristics for delayed toxic leukoencephalopathy, due to intoxication with drugs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Catatonia*
  • Cocaine / poisoning*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathies / chemically induced*
  • Leukoencephalopathies / diagnosis
  • Leukoencephalopathies / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Methadone / poisoning*
  • Middle Aged
  • White Matter / pathology*


  • Cocaine
  • Methadone