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SYNOPSIS

We reviewed the medical records of 283 cocaine users consecutively admitted to a municipal hospital and identified 37 patients (13.1%) complaining of headaches. These patients were divided into three groups. Three patients had migraine-like headaches and transient hemiparesis associated with cocaine use. Five patients had headaches associated with cocaine withdrawal. In 29 patients headaches were not clearly associated with cocaine. Twenty-two of the 29 had chronic daily headaches; nine of these patients were depressed. Three had focal brain lesions with chronic daily headache or acute onset global headache. The four remaining patients had other headaches. Based on these findings, we conclude that: (1) Headache is a common complaint in hospitalized cocaine users; (2) Cocaine may occasionally trigger a syndrome which resembles hemiplegic migraine. The potential mechanisms of this syndrome will be discussed; (3) Hospitalized cocaine users who present with headaches most frequently have depression with suicidal ideation, often associated with cocaine withdrawal; and (4) Structural brain disease in these patients may result from a variety of causes.