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Medicina Legal de Costa Rica

On-line version ISSN 2215-5287Print version ISSN 1409-0015


SUZANNE CHING, Yu. Accidental death from combined cocaine and ethanol use. Literature review. Med. leg. Costa Rica [online]. 2023, vol.40, n.1, pp.40-47. ISSN 2215-5287.

Medical-legal autopsy in Costa Rica, in suspected cases of cocaethylene poisoning must be performed under the regulations established in the Work Standards Guide for the Forensic Pathology Section of the Department of Legal Medicine. The analysis of the pathophysiological mechanism of how these substances cause alterations in the organism that can lead to eventual death corresponds to part of the analysis required in the investigation when this cause of death is suspected. Therefore, the objective of this article is to describe the pathophysiological mechanisms that occur during the combined consumption of cocaine and ethanol, the mechanisms that lead to the death of people who consume these substances, and the medico-legal considerations to be considered for the diagnosis. of this cause of death. A review of scientific articles was carried out on the effects of the combined use of cocaine and ethanol. The literature describes that the combined use of cocaine and ethanol enhances the pharmacokinetic and biochemical effects of each one of these substances, that its derivative, cocaethylene, can generate the mechanisms that cause death by itself. That the main pathophysiological mechanisms that lead to death in the combined use of these substances are of cardiovascular and hepatic origin. As legal medical considerations to take into account for the diagnosis of this type of accidental death, in the Toxicology Section of the Department of Forensic Sciences of Costa Rica, the quantification of cocaethylene and related substances is not carried out, although it is currently in the development of a project for the determination of the stability of drugs in blood under storage conditions, in order to offer the possibility of quantifying certain drugs (which could include cocaethylene) in the near future.

Keywords : Legal medicine; causes of death; cocaethylene; cocaine; ethanol; intoxication.

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