Because older detoxification techniques were often painful and unsuccessful, addiction medicine researchers wanted a better approach. By the 1980s, these researchers pioneered the Anesthesia Detox, which was intended to provide a more comfortable and effective detoxification experience for individuals struggling with opioid dependence or addiction.

This treatment method has many names and variations, including:

The Truth About Anesthesia Detox (Ultra-Rapid Detox)

Anesthesia Detox involves putting the patient to sleep on a ventilator, which breathes for them. Then you administer an opioid antagonist (Naltrexone) to push all of the opioid drugs out of the brain extremely rapidly. The patient should wake up feeling happy that the drugs were gone and their detox was over.

The idea was for the person to sleep during the most severe withdrawal symptoms. In truth, when they woke up from the rapid detox under sedation, they felt horrible. Their brain hadn't healed much at all. They were often highly agitated, confused, delirious, and delusional.

In some cases, patients needed to be strapped to their beds for their safety. The patient's body systems were under great stress.

In one study, individuals treated with Ultra-Rapid Detox:

  • Showed no better resistance against relapse
  • Had a much higher occurrence of negative effects
  • Had even greater discomfort than other detox options
This treatment method could be even more dangerous given other potential risk factors such as:
  • Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders: Individuals with underlying mental health disorders might experience exacerbated symptoms during or after the procedure.
  • Allergic Reactions: Allergies to anesthesia medications or other substances used in the procedure could lead to severe complications.
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity: Some individuals might have an unusual sensitivity to anesthesia drugs, making them more prone to complications.
  • Anesthesia Side Effects: Anesthesia carries inherent risks, such as breathing problems, allergic reactions, or adverse reactions to medications.
  • Unpredictable Withdrawal Response: The exact response to anesthesia-assisted detox or Ultra-Rapid Detox can vary between individuals, potentially leading to unexpected outcomes.
  • Substance Use History: A long history of Substance Use Disorder can complicate anesthesia administration and increase the chances of adverse reactions.
  • Liver or Kidney Dysfunction: Impaired liver or kidney function can affect the metabolism and elimination of anesthesia drugs, leading to potential complications.
  • Respiratory Issues: Those with respiratory problems, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could face difficulties during the procedure.
  • Cardiovascular Risks: Ultra-Rapid Detox involves stress on the cardiovascular system, which can be dangerous for individuals with heart conditions.
There were no fatalities in our program. But other physicians performing Anesthesia-Assisted Detox procedures have had a number of patients who didn't survive it.


Different Methods for Detoxing Off Opioids

In that era, Anesthesia Detox or Sedation Detox was the best treatment addiction medicine experts could offer. But now, there is a safer alternative to Anesthesia Detox. In fact, the Coleman Institute has not performed an opioid detox using anesthesia since 2001.

There are several other options available to people looking to get into a detox program for opioid dependence or addiction. Each method varies in terms of the level of medical intervention, support, and environment in which the opioid detox occurs. Choosing the right type of detox is crucial, as it can significantly impact the individual's comfort and safety during the withdrawal process, as well as the likelihood of successful recover

Self-Detox: Abruptly discontinuing opioid use can lead to significant discomfort and serious health risks. Individuals who do not perceive their opioid use to be excessive can face severe withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation. Attempts to gradually decrease opioid intake over a period often fail, as the discomfort during this tapering process is usually too severe. Patients attempting to detoxify on their own without medical assistance may suffer from symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, agitation, and intense cravings. Additional risks include dehydration, severe anxiety, and complications from concurrent medical or psychological conditions. Seeking professional medical assistance is crucial to mitigate these risks.

Inpatient Detoxification: This process is conducted in a hospital or drug rehabilitation center and typically lasts up to 10 days, varying from patient to patient. During inpatient opiate detox, medications such as methadone or buprenorphine may be administered to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent severe complications. However, inpatient detoxification can be costly and disruptive to everyday life. Additionally, health insurance may not always cover the entire duration needed for a patient to fully recover.

Outpatient Detoxification with The Coleman Method: In 2001 we developed a greatly improved rapid detoxification treatment—our Accelerated Outpatient Detoxification. This rapid detox treatment process is a much safer and gentler way of getting people off of opioids. To accomplish this, our Accelerated Outpatient Detox:

  • Spread the process out over 3-4 days (depending on the substance you are detoxing off of)
  • Uses specialized comfort medications
  • Does not use anesthesia
With these considerations in place, we were able to make the opioid withdrawal process (aka detoxification) much more comfortable and safer. An Accelerated Detox at the Coleman Institute seeks to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Plus, approximately 98% of our patients have completed their detoxification and have started on Naltrexone therapy.

Naltrexone is a non-addictive opioid blocker that reduces cravings and helps reduce the risk of relapse. Naltrexone gives patients some support so they can focus on building the health needed for long-term recovery. We currently offer long-lasting Naltrexone as an injection (Vivitrol) or as an implant that slowly dissolves under the skin.

Get Into Accelerated Opioid Detox at the Coleman Institute

Our patients have loved this improved, next-generation opioid detoxification process. We've had many patients undergo a dangerous Anesthesia Detox elsewhere, and then come to us for our safer Accelerated Outpatient Detox.

They have consistently told us that the Coleman Institute’s opioid withdrawal management process is a much better experience. They were grateful and extremely happy to be drug-free through this improved detoxification process. The Coleman Institute's Accelerated Outpatient Detox is a generation ahead of Anesthesia Detox.

If you or a loved one are looking for an alternative to a Sedation Detox or Anesthesia Detox, we can help. There is no waitlist or extended waiting period to get a spot in one of our outpatient opioid detox programs: Call our team now in Richmond, VA, or one of our detox clinics around the nation, or schedule a callback below to learn about your Accelerated Outpatient Detox options.

Peter R. Coleman, MD