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Is it Safe to be Placed in a Medically Induced Coma for Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous for some individuals, which is why it’s not surprising that many who struggle with alcohol addiction avoid getting a drug detox. A medically induced coma for alcohol detox — also known as a rapid detox — allows people to recover quickly from alcohol dependence without feeling or experiencing the effects of withdrawal. But while a rapid detox may be a faster, more convenient and comfortable way to withdraw from alcohol, this detox method isn’t for everyone, and may lead to serious complications in certain high-risk individuals.

Is a medically induced coma for alcohol detox ideal for you or your loved one? Here’s how a rapid alcohol detox works, along with other alcohol withdrawal treatment options that can offer you a safe, comfortable, and full recovery from alcohol addiction.

How Does Rapid Alcohol Detox Work?

A rapid alcohol detox is a speedier version of a medical alcohol detox, and allows patients to skip the entirety of their alcohol withdrawal. A rapid detox can last anywhere between one and five days, and involves the use of medications that quickly purge alcohol from the body so patients can experience a fast recovery and resume everyday activities.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe — many of which can be painful, uncomfortable, and difficult to endure. Nausea, insomnia, teeth grinding, diarrhea, and hallucinations are just some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that can deter nearly anyone from seeking help in the form of alcohol detox.

During a rapid alcohol detox, patients are sedated to avoid having to feel and experience the high levels of pain and discomfort usually associated with withdrawal. In addition to receiving intravenous medications, patients receive a combination of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals that help maintain and boost their immune systems, and that repair nutritional deficiency caused by months or years of alcohol addiction. Trained, professional medical staff will monitor patients 24/7 during a rapid detox to reduce and treat any complications that may arise.

At the end of a rapid detox, patients emerge from treatment centers fully sober and recovered from alcohol dependence, and can move forward with alcohol addiction treatment in the form of therapy.

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Medications Used

During a medically induced coma for alcohol detox, medications are used to accelerate the detox process and reduce the severity of certain withdrawal symptoms that may lead to complications. The most commonly used medications for alcohol withdrawal are naltrexone and benzodiazepines.

Naltrexone binds and blocks opioid receptors in the brain to stop feelings of intoxication, along with the euphoric effects produced by drinking alcohol. Naltrexone jumpstarts the body’s withdrawal process so patients don’t have to wait for the effects of alcohol to wear off. During a rapid detox, many patients are administered high doses of naltrexone intravenously so they can experience a relatively fast detox.

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. When used as part of rapid alcohol detox, benzos help prevent the onset of serious withdrawal symptoms such as rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, and seizures. For instance, chlordiazepoxide has been shown to reduce the severity of withdrawal and the risk for delirium tremens when used as part of alcohol detox.

Other medications that may be used during a medically induced coma for alcohol detox:

  • Diazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Barbiturates
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Beta blockers
  • Clonidine


The timeline for a rapid alcohol detox will vary depending on factors such as the medications and doses being used to conduct the rapid detox, and whether the patient meets any risk factors for potential complications. For instance, those dependent on high amounts of alcohol and who have been struggling with a long-term addiction may benefit from a four or five-day rapid detox to avoid putting extra, undue stress from withdrawal on the heart and other organs.

An ultra-rapid alcohol detox takes place over the course of 24 hours, but can only be performed on patients who are given general anesthesia. With a 24-hour rapid detox, patients are closely monitored by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses, and given doses of medications high enough to facilitate a short, brief alcohol withdrawal. The timelines for rapid detox generally appeal to those who are motivated to begin therapy for alcohol addiction, and who want to get back to their families, jobs, and lives immediately after overcoming alcohol dependence.

Is a Medically Induced Coma for Alcohol Detox Safe?

medically induced coma for alcohol detox

A professional facility will keep you safe during rapid alcohol detox.

It’s normal to question whether a rapid alcohol detox is safe, given how this procedure may seem too good to be true in regards to helping you avoid pain and discomfort caused by withdrawal. Just like with any other medical procedure, a medically induced coma for alcohol detox carries its own risks, but can be safely conducted given you qualify for the treatment and recover at a professional, licensed rapid detox center.

Here are benefits and common risks associated with rapid alcohol withdrawal treatment.


  • Side effects from withdrawal. A rapid detox speeds up withdrawal while the patient is sedated, but doesn’t necessarily reduce or eliminate the side effects of certain withdrawal symptoms. For instance, a patient may wake up feeling sore, ill, and exhausted, and require several extra days of bedrest or hospitalization.
  • Delirium tremens. This severe form of alcohol withdrawal is common in those with a history of heavy alcohol use, and can cause symptoms including hallucinations and seizures.
  • Allergic reactions. Patients who experience allergic reactions to the medications used during a rapid detox may vomit or encounter related complications that lead to death.
  • Incomplete sedation. After sedation, some patients may remain partially awake and feel the full effects of withdrawal without being able to speak or move.
  • Increased risk for relapse. A rapid detox only helps you overcome alcohol dependence, but not the psychological effects of alcohol addiction. Many patients need therapy to reduce the risk for relapse following a medically induced coma for alcohol detox.
  • Death. Rapid detox treatments have resulted in some cases of death.


  • Experience a faster recovery. A rapid detox speeds up withdrawal so you can resume normal, everyday life more quickly.
  • Avoid pain and discomfort during withdrawal. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and insomnia can be painful, annoying, and difficult to deal with, but a rapid detox allows you to sleep as your body experiences these symptoms.
  • Overcome alcohol dependence. A rapid detox helps you overcome physical dependence on alcohol so you no longer have to worry about physical cravings and the onset of withdrawal.
  • Experience a safe recovery. Nurses and doctors will monitor your vitals and withdrawal around the clock to ensure you experience a safe recovery with few, if any complications.
  • Begin therapy immediately. The sooner you finish alcohol detox, the sooner you can receive therapy to overcome alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders.

Safety Measures

Choose among rapid alcohol detox centers that are staffed with licensed, experienced medical professionals. Rapid detox is still a relatively new medical procedure, and should be overseen by those who have experience with conducting a medically induced coma for alcohol detox. Going through a rapid detox overseen by trained medical staff can help you stay safe and experience the most comfortable recovery possible.

Disclose your full health and medical history to the doctors conducting your rapid alcohol detox. This helps your doctors determine whether you’re an ideal candidate for a rapid detox, and allows them to prepare for ways to treat you in the event complications arise. Adhere to any medical instructions your doctors give you following the procedure so you can continue to experience a safe recovery from alcohol dependence.

Am I a Good Candidate for Rapid Alcohol Detox?

Rapid alcohol detox may be a quick, convenient way to overcome alcohol dependence, but this procedure isn’t ideal for everyone. Before settling on rapid alcohol detox, explore other available alcohol detox programs that may work better for you or your loved one. Many addiction treatment centers will personalize your detox and therapy regimen based on your unique recovery needs.

You may be an ideal candidate for a medically induced coma for alcohol detox if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are motivated to become sober and attend therapy to overcome alcohol addiction.
  • You have tried other detox treatments in the past.
  • You want to detox quickly so you can return to work, school, family and other important obligations.
  • You want to avoid the pain and discomfort triggered by alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • You’re in good overall physical health and your immune system is strong enough to withstand rapid withdrawal from alcohol.
  • You do not have a history of heart problems or adverse reactions to medications used for anesthesia.
  • You do not have pre-existing medical conditions that qualify as risk factors for anesthesia complications such as epilepsy, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Before you go through rapid alcohol detox, doctors will review your medical history and perform an exam, which may involve gathering blood and urine samples. This is necessary for doctors to determine the right doses of medications you’ll need during withdrawal, and whether you may be at risk for any serious complications.

Other Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

If you don’t qualify as a candidate for rapid detox, or don’t think this treatment would work for you, understand there are other alcohol detox methods that can allow you to experience a safe, fulfilling recovery.

Medical Detox

A medical alcohol detox allows you to withdraw from alcohol at your body’s own natural pace, but with the use of medications that help relieve certain withdrawal symptoms. The average timeline for a medical alcohol detox is seven to 10 days. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as six hours after the last drink, and usually peak between 24 and 72 hours after the last drink.

A medical alcohol detox is conducted in an inpatient or hospital-like setting, and allows you to withdraw from alcohol while being monitored by trained nurses and doctors. A medical detox can be compared to a rapid detox but without the sedation and speedy timeline. Patients withdrawing from alcohol using a medical detox face many of the same risks as those receiving a rapid detox, and also often require 24/7 medical supervision to reduce the risk for potential complications like seizures.

Medications commonly used in a medical alcohol detox include naltrexone, benzodiazepines, and many of the same medications used during a rapid detox. Patients who go through alcohol detox as part of an extended addiction treatment program may also receive Acamprosate and disulfiram — maintenance medications that promote sobriety. Acamprosate reduces alcohol cravings, while disulfiram produces adverse symptoms like nausea and dizziness when used with alcohol.

Natural Detox

A natural detox is similar to a medical detox in that this alcohol withdrawal treatment allows you to withdraw from alcohol at your body’s own natural pace. However, a natural detox replaces prescription medications with holistic therapies that help reduce pain and discomfort, and that boost your overall physical and psychological health.

A natural detox is sometimes also known as a medically supervised detox. Doctors and trained professionals will monitor you during withdrawal and use therapies as needed to reduce and treat certain symptoms.

Examples of therapies used during a natural detox are acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, nutrition therapy, and exercise therapy. Many of these therapies help you overcome alcohol dependence by driving toxins out of your body in the form of sweat and waste. These treatments can also help you experience relief from painful symptoms like headaches and nausea.

Find a Rapid Alcohol Detox Center Near You

Detox is the first stage of alcohol addiction treatment, and can help you or your loved one overcome physical dependence on alcohol. Never detox from alcohol at home, since some alcohol withdrawal symptoms may increase your risk for complications including relapse and death. A rapid alcohol detox center will help you get started on the path to sobriety more quickly than any other detox method.

Ready to begin your recovery journey? Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to learn about available treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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