Is Rapid Opiate Detox Safe?

Detox under anesthesia (also know as rapid opiate detox) is not worth the risk of medical complications. We review the facts and expert recommendations here.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

READING SUMMARY: The American Society of Addiction Medicine recommends AGAINST the practice of rapid detox due because it is an unproven treatment method with many health risks. Even if rapid detox works for some people, there are safer, and more effective alternatives to overcome drug dependence.


What Is Rapid Detox?

The idea of a less uncomfortable, “rapid detox” was developed about 20 years ago by detox specialists who hoped to ease the discomfort of withdrawal and decrease the overall time spent in detox. Basically, treatments for opiate withdrawal called “detox under anesthesia” or “rapid opiate detox” involve placing you under anesthesia and injecting large doses of opiate-blocking drugs to your system. The idea is that the opiate blockers will speed up the return to normal opioid system function.

During the procedure, doctors first administer a general anesthetic for sedation. Then, they administer a medicines like naltrexone to trigger symptoms of withdrawal. After 4-6 hours you wake up … but detox has just started.

In general, withdrawal from opiates is unpleasant, uncomfortable, and temporarily painful. So, is this alternative way to withdraw from  drugs effective or safe? More on the efficacy of ultra-rapid opiate detoxification (a.k.a. UROD) follows. We’ll review its safety so that you can evaluate the option before you “go under” this procedure.

Does It Work?

The main intention of rapid detox is to help people get opiate drugs out of their system. Rapid detox is widely advertised for detox from stronger opiates like:

  • codeine
  • hydrocodone
  • heroin
  • morphine
  • oxycodone

As people withdraw and remove the drugs from their system, they prefer to be drowsy and sedate. In fact, the main reason why users are eager to try this method is because they want to avoid the withdrawal discomfort. Some people even view rapid detox as a magical way to skip the entire detox protocol and energy they have to invest in order to get the quick results.

However, the truth is that addiction is a disease that requires a step-by-step approach working on the mental and physical aspects of the condition.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA reported and published this study in 2006 comparing 3 different types of detox. The summary compared detox efficiency for over 100 patients and found anesthesia-assisted detox to be no more easier than other approaches.  Further, the American Society of Addiction Medicine DOES NOT recommend rapid detox due to the fact that it is an unproven treatment method with many health risks.  


The whole procedure of rapid detox only takes a few days, but the road to recovery be difficult. In fact, patients in this study who went through ultra-rapid detox showed the highest rate of withdrawal symptoms at one hour after anesthesia. While most of detox symptoms subsided after 24 hours, the underlying issues that drive drug use are still present.

A person undergoing rapid detox will also need residential treatment, or outpatient services. Since relapse is common in opiates addiction, the chances are very big that people who go through this “immediate solution” might go back to using again. Therefore, rapid opiate detox may take only 72 hours, but should be followed by 3-6 months of rehabilitation programs and up to 1 year or more of follow up therapy for best results.


Rapid detox is expensive.

Depending on the course of treatment, this procedure may cost you between$10,000-15,000. The process is done in the hospital and because sedation and intensive monitoring are involved, the costs can be even higher. Another financial inconvenience is the fact that insurance companies do not cover the costs of rapid detox because it is not considered to be medically safe.


Doctors continue to use techniques developed during rapid detox because, in a sense, the technique does work to move withdrawal and detox along. Plus, treatment outcomes are similar to other types of detox protocols (buprenorphine or clonidine assisted detox). But some of the claims that detox centers make are pure advertising, and have not been proven in clinical trials.

In fact, the risks and the costs of rapid opiate detox are real. And as much as you might like the idea of sleeping through withdrawal, you need to know the facts about this procedure. We present them here.

  1. Rapid opiate detox does not decrease time in detox.

There is no evidence that ultra-rapid opiate detoxification programs actually reduce the time you spend in withdrawal.

  1. Rapid opiate detox does not decrease intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

In some cases, rapid detox may reduce the intensity of symptoms during general anesthesia and the immediate recovery period. But in most cases, once awakened from anesthesia, people who choose ultra rapid detox report symptoms of discomfort comparable to those of more conventional detox procedures using buprenorphine or clonidine assisted detox.

  1. Rapid opiate detox is medically risky.

There have been several deaths associated with detox under anesthesia, particularly when performed outside a hospital. Rapid detox can provoke unconsciousness, transient confusion, or depressive mood. Or even worse. Pulmonary, psychiatric complications, and metabolic complications from diabetes, all of which require hospitalization are possible. Of particular concern is vomiting during anesthesia (opiate withdrawal produces vomiting).

Because of the significant increase in death risk, many specialists think the risks of rapid opiate detox outweigh the potential and unproven benefits.


Adverse events including life threatening situations are a serious consequence of opiate detox. These risky outcomes may result in significant negative impact over people’s health and well-being while the drugs are being removed from the system. The many risks associated with this approach include

  • fluid accumulation in the lungs
  • metabolic complications of diabetes
  • worsening of underlying bipolar illness

…as well as other potentially serious adverse events. People with preexisting medical conditions are particularly at risk for anesthesia-related adverse events. Preexisting medical conditions that put you more at risk of adverse events include:

  • elevated blood sugar levels
  • insulin-dependent diabetes
  • psychiatric disorders
  • prior experience of pneumonia, hepatitis, heart disease, or AIDS

In fact, addiction experts have raised several concerns about the serious adverse events, including death, related to rapid and ultra-rapid opiate detoxification. According to this 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control, a number of incidents have been noted among which several deaths and numerous more near-deaths during rapid detox.

NOTE HERE: While rapid detox is presented as an alternative to traditional detox, know that it is NOT safe.

Still Have Questions?

Experts agree that there is no compelling reason for using general anesthesia to treat opiate dependence, especially as it presents particular safety concerns. Instead, when you are ready to detox from opiates, talk to your doctor first about how to slowly stop prescription medicine or how to taper doses gradually to prevent signs and symptoms of withdrawal. Then, you can check in to a medically supervised detox center to get opiates out of your system.

If you have any additional questions about opiate rapid detox, or would just like to share your experience, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We love to hear from our readers, and we look forward to helping you move forward to a drug-free life.

Reference sources: Ultrarapid detox no better than withdrawal, NIDA 2006 opiate withdrawal studies
ASAM: Public Policy Statement On Rapid and Ultra Rapid Opioid Detoxification
CDC: Deaths and Severe Adverse Events Associated with Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Opioid Detoxification
NCBI: Shortening anesthesia duration does not affect severity of withdrawal syndrome in patients undergoing ultra rapid opioid detoxification.
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.


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  1. Hi Dakota,

    Being very familiar with different heroin detox with anesthesia, I can tell you that the top rapid detox out there is the waismann detox. The other ones are not even worth the suffering. It sounds like more money but is actually less costly because you get so much more medical assistance. The others one or two day thing is just not enough. The waismann treatment people are the original rapid detox. They have been there for decades because they know what they are doing. I wish you and your partner the best.

  2. Hi myself and my fiance are opiate addicts and are considering doing the rapid opiate detox under anesthesia and have found a facility in southern California called “Waismann”. I noticed some of the people here have undergone treatment or have had family members who have and had it done at the Waismann facility. I was substring if anyone knows the approximate cost for this and unfortunately we don’t have insurance besides state issued med-ical & I know they don’t except that. We are so very desperate to get clean and have tried so many other methods(Suboxone,21 day methadone taper , residential rehabs , cold turkey & almost died , acupuncture treatment, hypnotherapy, AA and Na and having sponsors also , ) this is our last chance and hope to get clean and to stay clean without dragging it on for months. We could go back to the methadone clinic and do the maintenance program, but that’s a never ending program and I believe they try to keep u on it and in the clinic for financial purposes ,not to actually help u get off of opiates . Anyways long story short does anyone have any input on how we can do this in a facility that is top of the line, such as
    Waismann, we live a couple hours north of Sacramento CA and do have 2 teenagers we will need to figure out Care for them while undergoing this but that’s the least of the problems. It’s basically the cost and how much time my fiance is going to have to take off of work until he can be comfortable enough to return. Idk if they may give us a discount because of there being 2 of us needing the treatment or not. If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, input, or any thoughts that may help us I’d greatly appreciate it so very much!! Thank you for your time and looking forward to any responses !!
    Desperately in need, E&N

  3. I did two rapid detoxes. First was under anesthesia and from 7 years of methadone use. Was out for 8 hours then stretched like crazy for 8 hours not withdrawal just all the opiates from your brain when they Jack them off in 20 minutes have nowhere to go but your muscles I had no withdrawal after but I did have paws but in six weeks I felt great smoked a lot of weed which helped you just feel tons of Sorrow regret emotions you haven’t felt in years crushing you after that it was good 3 weeks ago I did an accelerated detox not under anesthesia to come off 3 years of Suboxone same deal wasn’t real sick at the place and I’m not experiencing as bad as paws. I’ve heard tons of horror stories about Ultra rapid detox for me it was the only way I was getting clean I couldn’t go 12 hours being sick let alone a month from Methadone people do die but a lot more die using drugs than rapid detox

  4. I’ve heard that opiate dotox can be unpleasant. However, I have never heard about how people might try to detox while they are under anesthesia. As you mentioned, there are side effects from heroin detoxification process like depression, agitation, and confusion. I can see why someone might want to avoid this detox process, but this rapid detox process sounds risky. However, if someone I cared about was going through the detox process, I don’t think I would mind if they did so in a facility that had medical staff on hand to ensure their health and safety. Thanks for the article.

  5. The information here is not correct. I just went through a type of medical detox at what i believe to be the best place in the country. Yes the first night was difficult but I am 48 hours past procedure and I am a new person. You can follow my story here – I will be adding all details in the next few hours. And you can contact me with any question. I believe without a doubt in my mind that unless you are a hard core mental addict- medical detox is the best way to get over the physical cravings and move on with your life. I had no idea what I was missing any more.

    1. Hello Ozz. I suggest you call the helpline number displayed on our site to get in touch with our trusted treatment providers. You can get solid advise on what treatment program and approach are best for his needs, and you will also be advised on all other important details surrounding rehab such as health insurance acceptance, payment options, etc.

  6. Even in the “safest environment” medical complications do arise. Yes, even in the hospital and it has happen. The key to a safe detox experience is to know your physician well. The physician must be meticulous about their patient care. “More money does not necessary equate to better care” how many time have we seen these tragic scenarios in our local gossip newspaper stand. With that said, patients needs to be closely monitored after detox. Every patient is different and their level of aftercare will vary as well.

  7. Mary,
    Rapid detox in surgery centers is simply not safe as it should be. Just because they do a fast detox, do not mean is the same system as a place like the waismann detox, that is in a real hospital with all medical resources available to you, if and when you need it.

    New York , New Jersey and even Michigan health department has had rapid detox that are performed in surgery centers closed down, due to medical complications during procedure (without the proper medical resources) and readmission to emergency rooms once patients get discharged to a hotel. If you are choosing a less costly approach, maybe you should reconsider rapid detox and try a slower detox that requires less medical assistance.
    Good responsible medicine is costly and rapid detox can be a very safe and good option when done properly. I wish you all the best on whatever approach you decide to take.

  8. All these posts are very helpful… looking for any feedback on the rapid detox at a surgery center in Michigan, they use the same rapid detox system as the waismann in Cali, but stay in a hotel with 24/7 monitoring by paramedic or nurse for a few days after the procedure.

  9. Rapid detox and all other medical procedures are as safe as the level of responsibility of the doctor performing it. It is a costly process when done properly and sadly enough very few patients can afford it. Consequently cheaper versions have surfaced all over the country and unnecessary medical complications have surfaced with it,
    Safe rapid detox should only be done inpatient and in a full service hospital where medical recourse is immediate available.
    Post Detox care is crucial. Places that send patients to a hotel immediate after rapid detox with a family member are putting patients at unnecessary risk to save money.

  10. Yes, rapid detox is safe. Rapid detox can be done with or without general anesthesia. The process of screening for rapid detox patient is a complex one. As noted above, post detox care is extremely important to the success of the detox and the patient’s well being. Our center have our detox physicians stay with our detox patient the first 12-18 hrs after detox.
    General anesthesia is not indicated for every rapid detox. Depending on the patient’s health (mental and physical) will determine if anesthesia is necessary. Even when anesthesia is indicated, most patients will not need general anesthesia. With this said, anesthesia services can provide broad spectrum of care. Gone are the antiquated ways of thinking-general anesthesia or no anesthesia. Instead anesthesia providers can tritrate your anesthesia depth similar to having adjust the amount of sugar in your coffee.

  11. Hello Sandy. Rapid detox is safe, of course not for everyone. If your doctor has given you clearance, then he thinks it’s process fit for you. I understand why you need to go through rapid detox, gradually tapering will only give you withdrawals, while the pain intensifies. You might want to know: How will your pain be managed during the hours of detox? Will the anesthesia help with the pain management?

  12. I have a rare neurological disease involving the layers of the spinal cord covering and nerve roots named Arachnoiditis. The most prominent symptom of this terrible disease is severe and agonizing pain. Many non-opioid treatments have been tried on me including nerve stimulators, spinal injections of strong anti-inflamatory medications, and psychological procedures to name a few. The only relief I have had is timed release morphine. I was first diagnosed in 2007 and have seen many specialists including a complete work up by St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica, CA., and The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. Recommendations of both of these highly respected medical Centers was to administer morphine under the strict and continuous care of Neurologists and Pain Management Physicians. As with all opiates, I do not receive the same level of relief now as I did when I first began taking them. My neurologist has discussed many alternative treatments to pain management but first I need to detox. I am extremely leery of rapid detox and would like to know individual’s experience. Just how safe is it and what is the mortality rate? What questions should I ask? My insurance has already approved it to be administered by the Tarzana Treatment Center in Tarzana, CA. HELP!

  13. Two years ago, I found out my son was addicted to opiates. With much research, I believed that rapid detox was the most humane way to detox. I further found out that all rapid detox centers are not alike. With safety as my biggest concern, I spent the additional money for what I felt was the best rapid detox center- Waismann Method… My son was treated in an intensive care unit in an accredited hospital (3 days), and then proceeded to their aftercare center (Domus Retreat) for four days of medical monitoring, therapy etc… The less expensive option I passed on was a similar medical treatment done in a surgery center, and then the patient was sent back to a hotel to manage himself the medications they provided. All I can say is I do not regret speeding the money, my son is clean two years later, and he did not suffer.

  14. Hello Carol. Withdrawal from opiates is generally unpleasant, uncomfortable and temporarily painful. Experts agree that there is no compelling reason for using general anesthesia to treat opiate dependence, especially as it presents particular safety concerns. It would be more comfortable for your brother to check into a medically supervised detox center to get opiates out of your system.

  15. Is it safe? My brother tried a 5 day rapid opiate detox and it was a living nightmare for him. He’s been on heroin and methadone for some time now, as well as drinking in excess. We did our research and spent a fortune sending him to a clinic that specialised in a 5 day rapid opiate detox. In my opinion it was far too harsh and I have heard of many people who can’t handle it. He had an adverse reaction to the detox and was vomitting so badly as well as experiencing sever withdrawal symptoms. That bit tbh I wasn’t that shocked about, however after 5 days he was literally kicked out and was in no state to be on his own. Things then just spiralled downwards as he tried to get back in control of his life (in his way). 6 months ago we found out about another rapid opiate detox that is gentler and takes 10-12 days to detox at a clinic in Newmarket called Abbeycare. My brother spent the first 5 days in bed detoxing and after 10 days he was fully detoxed and was given an opiate antagonist. He was offered to stay in for futher aftercare but decided instead to attend meetings outside of the clinic. It has totally changed his life around as well as ours – would really recommend it as a slightly gentler and more effective rapid opiate detox.

  16. All of these concerns are very valid. However, rapid opioid detox can being done safely in an outpatient setting. The claim that a certain method of rapid opioid detox is better than someone else’s because it is done in an hospital is unfounded. Aside from rapid opioid detox procedures done in US, there many more detox cases performed internationally. The issue of safety is largely dependent upon the supervising physician. Even the safest hospital cannot assure you success of your procedure if you have an incompetent physician. Millions of anesthesia cases done weekly in the US in an outpatient setting (plastic surgery, cardiac catherization, orthopedic surgery, gallbladder surgeries, ENT surgeries….etc), and these are successful only because there are competent anesthesiologists / clinicians screening these patients.

  17. John, I fully disagree with you regarding outpatient rapid detox centers. You are right , the process itself has come a long way in the last decade. I have been in the medical addiction field since the beginning and one of the biggest differences between the providers is the safety . Rapid Detox speeds the withdrawal 10 to 15 times faster, it needs to be inpatient in a hospital to ensure vitals stability. The outpatient clinics keep getting shut down and changing location and doctors like New York, Texas , Florida , Canada and numerous times in Michigan. There is very few places that does this process safely as it should and that is why the name “rapid detox” has received such bad negative reviews.
    By the way Andrea, you should not go through rapid detox unless there is a cardiologist available to assess you before the process and on location in case you need him.

  18. Thank you John, I feel better!! This is a result from something I had no control over..unfortunately family members are not as helpful and have criticize my situation.

  19. Andrea,
    Your scenario is not unusual. There are a number of outpatient Ultra Rapid Opioid Detox (UROD) facilities in the US. They will be more than adequately equipped to take care of you. Whether you are admitted to hospital or to a detox facility, the quality of the doctors should be the deciding factor. They should be able to identify the source of the palpitations (What causes them, when they start, how you will respond to medical treatment, etc.). If you haven’t seen a cardiologist yet, I suggest that you see one before your detox procedure.

    Ultra Rapid Opioid Detox (UROD) has vastly improved since the time of its inception. While the media has shed a negative light on UROD in recent times, it is largely unfounded. Countless numbers of lives have been saved via UROD procedures… So why don’t we hear from them? Unlike other types of medical procedures, successful UROD patients will never talk about their successes. This is largely due to the negative stigma that society has placed on opioid dependency – to admit success is to simultaneously acknowledge an opiate dependency from the past. The result? A system where a majority of successes remain silent and only the minority is heard.

  20. Ive had back surgery in July 2013 . Since then, im taking hydrocodone along w/muscle relaxers. Im also taking tarka for bp and metformin for diabetics. I want to get off the hydrocodone. .i take 6 a day. I can’t be admitted in a hosp but im scared of chest palpations. Pls help!

  21. This article Is very so wrong. I went through all kinds of treatments and detoxes with my son. From cold turkey, Suboxone, rehabs and finally rapid detox at the Waismann in California. It was the most comprehensive medical treatment I have ever experienced with him. He was in a hospital and saw the anesthesiologist a cardiologist and so many more tests were done. The detox was almost a miracle in my view. Sure there was a few days he had some symptoms, but compare to anything else we have gone through , it was simply brilliant!
    He was in the hospital for 3 days and then the after care for a few more..
    Its been 2 years and I cant thank the Waismann Method people enough!
    I know other places that do rapid detox have had lots of problems but they are not in a real hospital and they don’t have the experience these people do. They are serious about the care they give.

  22. There are about a dozen of ultra rapid opioid detox (UROD) centers in US. Thousands of UROD cases done yearly around the world. General anesthesia is safer than deep sedation because your airway is secured (ask any anesthesiologist- no risk for aspiration). Under the care of a Board Certified Anesthesiologist, the hemodynamic changes with UROD are well controlled. Regardless if you are in an acute hospital setting or in an accredited facility, the level of risk is the same. Most importantly, your doctor needs to recognized the complication(s) before it happens and treat it in a timely manner (this is the job of anesthesiologist-they are paid to be prepared for the unthinkable). Accredited facilities are required to be within 1/2 hour of an acute care hospital (most facilities are much closer than that). Much of the safety items listed above are more for PR than clinical indication. Screening is the most important criteria for a successful UROD. I have been to the center in Northern California. They do a great job in taking care of you.

  23. OK, I left a message before, but maybe it got truncated. I wanted to list a blog from the Waismann Method that went over safety measures that rapid detox providers should follow to reduce the risks involved. Rapid detox can be a great thing and positively life changing when it is done responsibly. Unfortunately, there are many bargain rapid detox centers out there that compromise the safety of their patients just to save money and cut corners.

    This is one of those procedures that you don’t want to go with the cheapest program out there. Anyway, here’s the blog that goes over the safety issues anyone thinking of doing rapid opiate detox NEEDS to consider before choosing a program.

  24. Rapid opiate detox is a serious and involving procedure. Any reputable and professional rapid detox provider should follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of its patients. Unfortunately, there are many rapid detox facilities that cut corners to save money at the risk of their patients. You’ll need a list of safety protocols to consider when deciding a rapid detox program.

  25. Rapid detox is as safe as the responsibility of the doctor that performs it. It has to be done in a real hospital, not a surgery center or a clinic where patient cannot stay for more than 24 hrs and there is no additional medical resource if needed.
    My son had rapid detox in California. He was inpatient before , during and after the procedure. He was in for 5 days what makes all the difference in the world,
    I know parent that saved money and in one of these overnight rapid detox and end up in emergency room a day later with their kids,
    It can be a really great procedure if done properly.

  26. Mr Mike Rock

    Could you please tell me city and state you took son to. I’m in desperate need of help. Do any of these facilities take insurance. I have great substance abuse coverage

    Thank you

  27. I am a business professional and found that my 21 year old son was on Vicoden and even shooting heroin when he had little money. It was the last thing I expected.

    I did serious research on rapid detox and re-hab centers. I chose rapid detox with safety as my primary issue, and made the following observations (Which determined price):

    1) This should be done in an accredited hospital

    2) The doctor should be board certified

    3) The patient should be monitored for several days after treatment and not sent home or to a hotel (VERY IMPORTANT)

    The cost of difference rapid treatment centers varies considerably depending on the three items above. Again, safety was my main concern.

    I sent my son to Waismann, not just because of the three criteria items, but also the fact that they treated in an intensive care unit. They were very professional from beginning to end, which provided a good comfort level.

    I keep seeing blogs about the high costs, but when I saw the intensive care unit, doctor, nurses, Waismann staff, aftercare facility with therapy and the nice amenities…I felt I received fair value.

    My son did very well during the procedure, possibly due to his young age and good health. He enjoyed their high-end aftercare facility (which he didn’t deserve but it came with the package and he was monitored). He is taking Naltraxone (sp?) to eliminate cravings, and he claims it is working. I drug test him regularly- so far all good.

    I am happy to say my son is doing very well, with a new full time job and school at night.

  28. Hello Brittany. Thanks for sharing your experience about rapid opiate detox. I’m glad that it worked out well for you.

  29. This information is incorrect…. i have successfully completed a Rapid Drug Detox and the withdraw was very minimal compared to any of the times I had ever tried to ween down or quit on my own. The doctors took great care of me.. Naloxone is used to clear out the opiate receptors in the brain withen one hour of anesthesia, where as quiting on your own will leave it in your brain for up to 6 months… Yes, anytime anesthesia is involved there may be risks, but the risks of remaining an addict are far more dangerous than the program itself.

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