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Bromism is the syndrome which results from the long-term consumption of bromine, usually through bromine-based sedatives such as potassium bromide and lithium bromide. Bromism was once a very common disorder, being responsible for 5 to 10% of psychiatric hospital admissions, but is now uncommon since bromide was withdrawn from clinical use in many countries and was severely restricted in others.


Bromide rash
Neurological and psychiatric
Neurological and psychiatric symptoms are widely variable. Common symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, ataxia, confusion, hallucinations, psychosis, weakness, stupor, and, in severe cases, coma.[1]
Gastrointestinal effects include nausea and vomiting as acute adverse effects. Chronic exposure may lead to anorexia or constipation.[1]
Dermatological effects include cherry angiomas, acneiform, and pustular and erythematous rashes.[1]


High levels of bromide chronically impair the membrane of neurons, which progressively impairs neuronal transmission, leading to toxicity, known as bromism. Bromide has an elimination half-life of 9 to 12 days, which can lead to excessive accumulation. Doses of 0.5 to 1 gram per day of bromide can lead to bromism. Historically, the therapeutic dose of bromide is about 3 to 5 grams of bromide, thus explaining why chronic toxicity (bromism) was once so common. While significant and sometimes serious disturbances occur to neurologic, psychiatric, dermatological, and gastrointestinal functions, death is rare from bromism.[1]

Bromism is caused by a neurotoxic effect on the brain which results in somnolence, psychosis, seizures, and delirium.[2] Bromism has also been caused by excessive consumption of soda that contains brominated vegetable oil, leading to headache, fatigue, ataxia, memory loss, and potentially inability to walk as observed in one case.[3]


Bromism is diagnosed by checking the serum chloride level, electrolytes, glucose, BUN and creatinine, as well as symptoms such as psychosis. Bromine is also radiopaque, so an abdominal X-ray may also help in the diagnosis.[1]


There are no specific antidotes or protocols for bromide poisoning of the body. Increased intake of regular salt and water, which increases the flow of the related chloride ion through the body, is one way of flushing out the bromide. Furosemide may help aid urinary excretion in individuals with renal impairment or where bromide toxicity is severe.[1] In one case, hemodialysis was used to reduce bromide's half-life to 1.38h, dramatically improving the patient's condition.[3]

Iodine deficiency is also linked to weaker (less detectable) forms of bromism.[citation needed] Iodine and bromine are closely related to each other in behavior and thus location on the periodic table, and high levels of bromine will displace iodine in tissues and blood when there is an opportunity to do so. Supplementary intake of iodine should be preceded by a salt loading protocol, or consumption of dietary sulfur beforehand.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Olson, Kent R. (1 November 2003). Poisoning & drug overdose (4th ed.). Appleton & Lange. pp. 140–141. ISBN 978-0-8385-8172-8.
  2. ^ Galanter, Marc; Kleber, Herbert D. (1 July 2008). The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment (4th ed.). United States of America: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-58562-276-4.
  3. ^ a b Horowitz, B. Zane (1997). "Bromism from Excessive Cola Consumption". Clinical Toxicology. 35 (3): 315–320. doi:10.3109/15563659709001219. PMID 9140329.

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