CNS Drugs

, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 913–920 | Cite as

Dexmedetomidine for the Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Rationale and Current Status of Research

  • Andrew J. MuzykEmail author
  • Suzanne Kerns
  • Scott Brudney
  • Jane P. Gagliardi
Review Article


Dexmedetomidine is currently used in the US in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) in the intensive care unit (ICU) setting, although data to support this practice are limited. Dexmedetomidine targets the noradrenergic system, an important but frequently overlooked secondary mechanism in the development of AWS, and, in doing so, may reduce the need for excessive benzodiazepine use which can increase the risk of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated deliriogenesis and respiratory depression. The purpose of this narrative review is to evaluate available literature reporting on the safety and efficacy of dexmedetomidine for AWS in the ICU setting. An English-language MEDLINE search (1966 to July 2013) was performed to identify articles evaluating the efficacy and safety of dexmedetomidine for AWS. Case series, case reports and controlled trials were evaluated for topic relevance and clinical applicability. Reference lists of articles retrieved through this search were reviewed to identify any relevant publications. Studies focusing on the safety and efficacy of dexmedetomidine for AWS in humans were selected. Studies were included if they were published as full articles; abstracts alone were not included in this review. Eight published case studies and case series were identified. Based on a limited body of evidence, dexmedetomidine shows promise as a potentially safe and possibly effective adjuvant treatment for AWS in the ICU. Prospective, well-controlled studies are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of the use of dexmedetomidine in AWS.


Intensive Care Unit Clonidine Locus Coeruleus Dexmedetomidine Alcohol Withdrawal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Financial disclosure

No financial support was received for this publication. Drs. Kerns and Gagliardi have no sources of financial support relevant to this publication. Drs. Muzyk and Brudney are on the speaker’s bureau for Hospira (manufacturer of Precedex® brand of dexmedetomidine).

Additional disclosure

This article (in part or in whole) has not been previously presented or published.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J. Muzyk
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Suzanne Kerns
    • 2
  • Scott Brudney
    • 3
  • Jane P. Gagliardi
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacy PracticeCampbell University School of Pharmacy and Health SciencesBuies CreekUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Durham VAMC Surgical Intensive Care UnitDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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