Management of Critically Ill Patients Receiving Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Brian L. Erstad, Melody J. Glenn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Topic Importance: Critical care clinicians are likely to see an increasing number of patients admitted to the ICU who are receiving US Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs) given the well-documented benefits of these agents. Oral methadone, multiple formulations of buprenorphine, and extended-release naltrexone are the three types of MOUD most likely to be encountered by ICU clinicians; however, these drugs vary with respect to formulations, pharmacokinetics, and adverse effects. Review Findings: No published clinical practice guidelines or consensus statements are available to guide decision-making in patients admitted to the ICU setting who are receiving MOUDs before admission. Additionally, no randomized trials and limited observational studies have evaluated issues related to MOUD use in the ICU. Therefore, ICU clinicians caring for patients admitted who are taking MOUDs must base their decision-making on data extrapolation from pharmacokinetic, pharmacologic, and clinical studies performed in non-ICU settings. Despite the challenges in administering MOUDs in critically ill patients, extrapolation of data from other hospital settings suggests that the benefits of continuing MOUD therapy outweigh the risks in patients able to continue therapy. This article provides guidance for critical care clinicians caring for patients admitted to the ICU already receiving methadone, buprenorphine, or extended-release naltrexone. The guidance includes algorithms to aid clinicians in the clinical decision-making process, recognizing the inherent limitations of the existing evidence on which the algorithms are based and the need to account for patient-specific considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-367
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • buprenorphine
  • medications for opioid use disorder
  • methadone
  • naltrexone
  • opioid use disorder
  • substance use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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