Substance abuse and withdrawal in the intensive care unit: Contemporary issues

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35 Scopus citations


Because 36% of intentional injury victims are drug dependent, the association between drug abuse and violence, especially in urban settings, is high. Withdrawal syndromes in ICU patients confuse their clinical management, may be extremely difficult to diagnose, are often lethal, need to be suspected, and should be at high risk for drug or alcohol dependence, should be tested for evidence of such drugs, and should be interviewed (together with their family members) for the presence of drug dependence traits. Appropriate patients should be referred for formal evaluation and treatment. Withdrawal syndromes must be promptly recognized, differential from traumatic or metabolic deterioration, and immediately treated. As patients are unique, so is their drug dependence. Invidivualized withdrawal therapy, not a 'one method fits all' approach, works best. The mainstay of most withdrawal therapy is supportive care and benzodiazepine therapy. Also, considering the high rate of multiple intoxicants present in trauma patients, withdrawal can occur from multiple agents in a single patient, further compounding these difficulties. Withdrawal from unusual substances, such as GHB, or from therapeutic interventions (e.g., prolonged opioid or benzodiazepine administration) also must be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1033-1053
Number of pages21
JournalSurgical Clinics of North America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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