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Surg Clin North Am. 2000 Jun;80(3):1033-53.

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

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Department of General Surgery, Wilford Hall US Air Force Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, USA.


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 prophylaxed against; therefore, all ICU patients should be considered to 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, differentiated from traumatic or metabolic deterioration, and immediately treated. As patients are unique, so is their drug dependence. Individualized 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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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