Before an opioid addiction rehabilitation program can begin, a person will need to stop taking the offending medication. Opioid detoxification and withdrawal treatment can happen with professional medical help or at home. Various settings can be used for addiction treatment based on patient needs.

Opioid Detoxification Under the Supervision of Medical Professionals

Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT), can be done in an outpatient clinical practice where patients are prescribed medication on a weekly or monthly basis, and is typically limited to the use of buprenorphine.

More intensive treatment may include an outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization program based in an addiction treatment facility or community mental health center. The most intense setting are residential addiction treatment facilities or hospitals.


Self-detoxification explained

Self- detoxification is a process where a person stops taking opioid medication without the help of an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility. This method, also called quitting “cold turkey,” is not preferred because:

  • It can induce severe withdrawal symptoms and lead to serious health complications.
  • People who stop taking opioids in this way are more likely to relapse compared to those who seek help from a detoxification program because they lack the support associated with being treated at a facility.

Rapid opioid detoxification is not recommended

Rapid opioid detoxification, sometimes called anesthesia-assisted rapid opioid detoxification, uses sedation (general anesthesia) and medication to pharmacologically limit the withdrawal process. It has been associated with a high risk of serious medical complications, including death.

This treatment option can be appealing because it seems to allow patients to avoid the symptoms associated with more prolonged opioid withdrawal and the tapering process. However, rapid opioid detoxification is not a standardized procedure. There is no evidence in medical literature that supports rapid opioid detoxification as a safe and effective method.

Most people will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of this detoxification.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Discontinuing the use of opioids can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Twitching and tremors
  • Back and bone pain



Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and intense, but are rarely life threatening. The worst of the symptoms will last 3 to 4 days.

Medically supervised detoxification may happen in an outpatient or more structured and monitored inpatient hospital-based setting. The following page will describe each of the available options for medically supervised treatment.

Dr. Steven Stanos specializes in pain medicine and serves as the Medical Director of Swedish Health System Pain Medicine and Services in Seattle, WA. Dr. Stanos serves on the editorial board of the journal Pain Medicine and has published numerous articles and book chapters on chronic pain management.