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DSECT/DSEN Monthly Seminar Series - Apr 22 2021 - Opioid and sedative prescribing after critical illness

“Opioid and sedative prescribing after critical illness”


Presented by

Dr. Hannah Wunsch MD MSc

Senior Scientist and Intensivist, Sunnybrook Research Insitute and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Lisa Burry PharmD 

Clinician Scientist and Pharmacist, Mount Sinai Hospital and Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto

Thursday, April 22, 2021 3- 4pm EST


Link to recording - 


Observational studies indicate opioids and sedating drugs are used extensively in the ICU to help patients with agitation, anxiety, delirium, sleep derangements, and especially to facilitate tolerance of invasive therapies such as mechanical ventilation. Although these drugs are intended for short-term symptoms relief in this setting, the available literature suggests patients are at higher risk of chronic use after a hospitalization with an ICU stay compared to those who were hospitalized and not admitted to the ICU or the general population.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Describe the epidemiology (local and international) of opioid and sedative drug use following critical illness. 
  2. Understand the risk factors for acute and chronic drug use following a critical illness. 

Supporting Resources:

  •  Wunsch H, Hill AD, Fu L, Fowler RA, Wang HT, Gomes T, Fan E, Juurlink DN, Pinto R, Wijeysundera DN, Scales DC. New Opioid Use after Invasive Mechanical Ventilation and Hospital Discharge. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020 Aug 15;202(4):568-575. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201912-2503OC.
  • Wang HT, Hill AD, Gomes T, Ruxandra P, Wijeysundera DN, Scales DC, Fowler RA, Wunsch H. J Crit Care. 2020; 55:128-33. Epub 2019 Oct 23. DOI:
  • Wunsch H, Christiansen CF, Johansen MB, et al. Psychiatric diagnoses and psychoactive medication use among nonsurgical critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation. JAMA 2014;311(11):1133-1142. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.21