Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Face Chewing Update: Excited Delirium

Rudy Eugene (left) attacked Ronald Poppo and
chewed off most of his face this weekend.
Authorities in Miami Dade County are now speculating that the naked man who chewed his victim's face this past weekend was in the midst of an "excited delirium."

The attacker, 31 year-old Rudy Eugene, is suspected to have been under the influence of an LSD-like drug known as "bath salts." He chewed 65 year-old Ronald Poppo's face almost completely off, and authorities are saying much of his face was gone by the time police arrived on the scene.

There is some controversy in the scientific community about whether "excited delirium" actually exists. Typically, a delirium is considered to be an abrupt change in a person's level of consciousness, with a reduced ability to focus or shift attention. It is also accompanied by a change in the person's ability to think, and typically comes with significant confusion and bizarre behavior. Delirium develops rapidly (usually over the course of about a day) and can fluctuate throughout the day. It is also considered a temporary condition, meaning if the person gets proper treatment, he/she can usually go back to normal life.

Excited delirium is said to be just like regular delirium, with the addition of heightened physiological responses. A person's body temperature rises dramatically, blood pressure increases, and the heart starts pounding. Typically, a person in the midst of an excited delirium will shout or growl and will become physically violent toward others. Many people who are experiencing this disturbance will take off their clothes because they are burning up on the inside.

As I mentioned previously, there is disagreement about whether or not "excited delirium" is an actual condition or if it is any different than a run-of-the-mill delirium. However, Miami Dade Police have reported a number of incidents similar to what happened with Mr. Eugene and Mr. Poppo in recent months. Attackers strip naked, become unresponsive, growl, and attack others. It is certainly possible that Mr. Eugene was in the midst of something like an excited delirium when he committed this heinous act.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


I posted about this on Slate, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the possibility of MDPV being the drug that caused this.

Dominic-- I saw your Slate post yesterday! Small world. MDPV is certainly a possibility. Personally, I wonder if it was just cocaine that had been cut with something really toxic.

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