Is putting people into a coma an effective addiction treatment?


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Dear Dr. Stanton:

I have a friend who has been a heroin addict for the last 5 years. She has been through many detox centers but none of them seemed to help. This year she visited a detox center located in the East southern part of the former Soviet Union. This center is one of its kind. My friend says that she was put in a state of coma through an injection of some fluid. Then the doctors would revive her and bring her to a relatively normal state of functioning and then repeat the procedure of putting her back in a coma. While she was in a coma they treated her. This treatment supposedly erased any memories of heroin use from her mind/brain. What exactly they did she nor I are really sure of and are interested in finding out. All I know about this rehab center is they have a high mortality rate as well as a high success rate. My friend spent two months there and now claims that she is clean. If you know any info. please let me know. Thank you.

Viktoriya Mass

Dear Viktoriya:

Placing people in comas — and thus producing a high death rate — is not a form of addiction treatment likely to be supported in the United States. I am reminded of the obesity treatment received by a famous American singer, Mario Lanza, in which he was placed in a coma (I believe this was in Switzerland), and due to which he died. The supposed effects on the brain of the heroin treatment your friend received do not make sense to me. But I am glad it has succeeded for your friend — and that she is alive! A certain number of patients of severe treatments — up to and including electroshock therapy — will benefit from them. But I am unaware of reliable research to show comparative benefits that justify the risks and pain.


Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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