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[Forced opioid detoxification under general anesthesia--a new challenge for anesthetists and intensive care physicians].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Klinik für Anästhesiologie und operative Intensivmedizin der Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.


Treatment of opioid addicts by means of competitive opioid receptor antagonists was developed at the University of Vienna in 1987 by Loimer and co-workers. They compared two withdrawal regimens: The short Opiate withdrawal using a staggered naloxone regimen and the rapid opiate detoxification during general anesthesia by means of high doses of naloxone. Based on the latter concept, various modifications have been developed world-wide using either naloxone or as an alternative, naltrexone, an antagonist available for oral administration only. However, there are considerable objections to opioid detoxification during general anasthesia. The main criticism is based an the supposedly unacceptable high risk:benefit-ratio, the higher costs, the lack of psycho-social support, and the lack of prospective studies. However, first results suggest that rapid detoxification procedures are more successful in decreasing relapse than methods which are based on psychiatric treatment alone. As sympathetic hyperfunction is common in rapid detoxification procedures using high doses of opioid receptor antagonists, it is essential to avoid severe autonomic imbalance with possible subsequent impairment of organ functions. To prevent those disturbances, general anesthesia plays an important role. So far, there is almost no information about such methods in the anesthesiological literature. In this article the clinical relevance of such methods is discussed summarizing both the available literature and our own experience and we conclude that rapid opioid detoxification under general anesthesia is a safe and efficient method to suppress withdrawal symptoms. This treatment may be of benefit in patients who particularly suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms and who have failed repeatedly to complete conventional withdrawal.

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