ABSTRACT: Many patients are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) for acute intoxication, serious complication of overdose, or withdrawal symptoms of illicit drugs. An acute withdrawal of drugs with addiction potential is associated with a sympathetic overactivity leading to marked psychomimetic disturbances. Acute intoxication or withdrawal of such drugs is often associated with life-threatening complications which require ICU admission and necessitate prolonged sedative analgesic medications, weaning from which is often complicated by withdrawal and other psychomimetic symptoms. Dexmedetomidine, an alpha-2 (α(2)) agonist, has been used successfully to facilitate withdrawal and detoxification of various drugs and also to control delirium in ICU patients. Herein, we report a case of a chronic opioid abuse (heroin) patient admitted with acute overdose complications leading to a prolonged ICU course requiring sedative-analgesic medication; the drug withdrawal-related symptoms further complicated the weaning process. Dexmedetomidine infusion was successfully used as a sedative-analgesic to control the withdrawal-related psychomimetic symptoms and to facilitate smooth detoxification and weaning from opioid and other sedatives.
Indian Journal of Palliative Care 09/2011; 17(3):251-4.