The Addition of Dexmedetomidine as an Adjunctive Therapy to Benzodiazepine Use in Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: A Literature Review

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Abstract

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is commonly encountered in the intensive care unit population. Currently, the mainstay treatment for AWS is the use of benzodiazepines. However, some patients are refractory to benzodiazepine treatment due to heavy alcohol abuse. In addition, escalating doses of benzodiazepines can lead to respiratory depression, requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation. Intubation and mechanical ventilation increase both intensive care unit and hospital length of stay. The addition of pharmacological agents to reduce the amount of benzodiazepine use in AWS has recently been studied. Most recently, the addition of dexmedetomidine, a selective α2 adrenoceptor agonist, has been explored. Dexmedetomidine provides sedation without depressing the respiratory system, making it an ideal pharmacological agent to use. The addition of dexmedetomidine in adjunct to benzodiazepine use has been proven to reduce the amount of benzodiazepine administered, decrease the number of patients requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation, and decrease length of intensive care unit stay and overall length of hospital stay. However, the use of dexmedetomidine has also produced harmful side effects such as hypotension and bradycardia. The use of dexmedetomidine in conjunction with benzodiazepines in the setting of AWS is promising; however, more research needs to be conducted in regard to the safety and efficacy of its use.

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