Rapid opiate detoxification

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1996 Nov;22(4):489-95. doi: 10.3109/00952999609001675.


We report on clinical and practical aspects of treatment of opiate addiction with a relatively new approach, rapid opiate detoxification (ROD). The goal is to induce rapid narcotic withdrawal in a controlled environment using narcotic antagonists while suppressing withdrawal symptoms with sedative drugs, thus effecting a dramatic abbreviation of the traditional withdrawal schedule. Twenty-five consecutive heroin-addicted patients presenting for detoxification were treated at a university hospital. There were 14 women and 11 men, with a mean age 32.6 years (range, 24-48). They underwent 29 separate detoxifications over a 4-month period. All but 3 of the detoxifications were effected with ROD. Several different techniques were used over the 4-month period, ranging from intramuscular and oral sedation to intravenous sedation, paralysis, and intubation. Efficacy of detoxification was demonstrated for all patients undergoing ROD; all were given 50 mg of naltrexone PO prior to discharge, and none had withdrawal symptoms. (The three patients treated with abstinence were not so tested.) We derive three conclusions from this early clinical experience: First, ROD appears to be a valuable tool in the treatment of heroin addiction. ROD is an efficient, effective technique that can play an important role in an integrated rehabilitation program. Second, the optimal method of ROD is yet to be determined; a continuum of approaches is available. Third, ROD is probably most suited to designated outpatient centers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / administration & dosage*
  • Critical Care
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naloxone / administration & dosage*
  • Naltrexone / administration & dosage
  • Narcotic Antagonists / administration & dosage*
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Propofol / administration & dosage*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vecuronium Bromide / therapeutic use


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone
  • Vecuronium Bromide
  • Propofol