Triptan and ergotamine overdoses in the United States: Analysis of the National Poison Data System


To examine the clinical outcomes of intentional overdoses involving triptans and ergotamines with a retrospective review of the National Poison Data System (NPDS).


This was a 5-year retrospective cross-sectional study (2014–2018) using the NPDS. Demographics, exposure characteristics, and outcomes were described. Univariate logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) for major effect or death. A multivariable logistic regression model with inclusion criteria of p < 0.1 in univariate analysis was implemented with backwards selection.


In this population (n = 1,489), multiple exposure was most common (n = 1,145). The mean age was 31.2 years and 1,197 (80.4%) participants were female. Major effects from a single exposure were seen in <1% with no recorded deaths. Triptan ingestion (n = 328) resulted in hypertension (14%), tachycardia (10.7%), drowsiness (11%), nausea (6.4%), vomiting (4.6%), vertigo (4%), chest pain (3.7%), and diaphoresis (2.4%). Ergotamine ingestion (n = 16) resulted in abdominal pain (16%), vomiting (12.5%), numbness (12.5%), nausea (6.3%), diarrhea (6.3%), and vertigo (6.3%). No clinical effect was seen in 90 (26.2%). No cases met Hunter criteria for serotonin syndrome. There is risk of major event or death due to age (OR 1.02; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01–1.04; p = 0.004), multiple product exposure (OR 9.50; 95% CI 2.29–39.48; p = 0.002), and concomitant overdose with benzodiazepines (OR 1.71; 95% CI 1.05–2.78; p = 0.032) or tricyclic antidepressants (OR 3.16; 95% CI 1.88–5.31; p < 0.001).


The risk of major effect or death was low and predicted by age, multiple product exposure, and concomitant benzodiazepine or tricyclic antidepressant. The triptan toxidrome consists of hypertension, tachycardia, and drowsiness. The toxic effects of ergotamine are acute gastrointestinal syndrome with vertigo and numbness. No cases of serotonin syndrome were seen.

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