You may have heard about easier and softer substance abuse recovery claims such as “rapid detox”, a magical and mystical way to stop using street drugs or prescription drugs, as if by wizardry.
The often multi-boarded physician waves his or her magic wand and you will no longer crave or take street or prescription drugs. Why? Because the board certified doctor says it works without posting or showing any evidence-based research to back his or her unsubstantiated claims.
While this procedure sounds amazingly alluring and like a fantastic way to get out of going to an evidence-based recovery program, backed by decades of clinical and laboratory research, there are serious risks and high costs to consider to a get-sober-quick scheme that appeals to substance abusers already very much accustomed to quick-fixes and fatal short-cuts.
Here are answers to some common questions about rapid detox.
We also provide safer evidence-based options that are available for your loved one or you.
What exactly is rapid detox?
Rapid detoxification usually involves a licensed physician giving the opioid blocker naltrexone in order to accelerate the physical withdrawal from opioid drugs, but:
- naltrexone eventually wears off and the misinformed rapid detoxification client remains with the desire to keep using drugs
- the misinformed rapid detoxification client is left with the delusion that the necessary change from a drug addicted lifestyle to a recovery lifestyle is no longer necessary
- the misinformed rapid detoxification client is left with the delusion that a lengthy recovery program is for not very wise people, and that rapid detox is the smarter way to go
However, abrupt cessation of narcotics causes tortuous withdrawal symptoms, which can be agonizing and:
- the misinformed rapid detoxification client does not know about the large number of people who undergo rapid detox, and overdose, and die trying to take the pain of rapid detox away
- the misinformed rapid detoxification client does not know about the tortuous drug cravings that are likely to persist after rapid detox
- the misinformed rapid detoxification client does not know that soon to follow drug cravings are likely to rapidly lead to drug relapse and require yet another costly detox
Therefore, rapid detox doctors give sedative medications to help patients be more comfortable and/or sleep through withdrawal, and:
- increase their client’s risk of replacement addiction to the doctor’s prescribed “sedative” medication
- upon discharge is withdrawing from both the rapid detoxification target drug and the prescribed sedative
Does rapid detox work?
Rapid detox is purported to get addicts off of drugs and ease withdrawal by physicians who have slow medical practices and need to generate revenue because rapid detox is most definitely not a cure for addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) does not recommend rapid detox because there is insufficient research data to substantiate the small number of success stories reported by some rapid detox docs on their webpages, without posting a single controlled and peer reviewed study that supports their claims.
While there are hundreds of pages of peer reviewed published data showing that detox without rehabilitation is a waste of time and money. In fact, the US Department of Justice has provided guidelines regarding physicians prescribing buprenorphine; buprenorphine should not be prescribed for detox without an accompanying recovery program because it has been established that detox alone is not likely to translate into lifelong drug or alcohol abstinence.
Even if rapid detoxification works for a few people, there are safer, more effective alternatives are available.
Besides, how long did rapid detox work for a few people?
- Was it for a week?
- Was it for month?
- Did the doctor confirm abstinence with weekly random urine drug screens?
- Did the doctor follow their abstinence for 1 year?
- Did the doctor follow their abstinence for 1 year?
- There are reputable recovery programs documenting quality recovery for many years and none of them used rapid detoxification.
Is rapid detox fast?
Rapid detox just takes a few days, and the road to recovery takes much longer.
A person using rapid detox only has a small chance of staying off of drugs and alcohol for an extended period of time. A person using rapid detox needs to be transferred to residential treatment or intensive outpatient services if they want a chance at staying off of drugs for an extended, long-term period of time.
Risks of rapid detox?
While physical withdrawal can feel unbearable and torturous, the worst withdrawal ever, medical experts say rapid detox is not life threatening, unless it involves alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Rapid detoxification is a complicated process and patients have experienced adverse reactions to the medications — some can be life-threatening.
Is rapid detoxification costly?
Depending on the rapid detox treatment provider, this procedure costs from $2,000 to over $10,000. The process is often done in a hospital and, because sedating medications and intensive-care type monitoring is implemented, the costs add up.
Insurance companies usually will not cover rapid detoxification treatment because it’s not considered medically necessary.
Are there alternatives to rapid detoxification?
Two major options are used in more traditional detoxification centers: methadone, buprenorphine or combination buprenorphine/naloxone.
Replacement addictions have been proven to be more common with methadone, leaving buprenorphine/naloxone as the option most often used, although buprenorphine is a potentially addictive opioid too.
Opioid detoxification drugs are used to help taper off substantially uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Doctors can prescribe other detox medications to manage symptoms of withdrawal as well, but they should not be prescribed without an attached recovery program.
So what’s up with rapid detox?
Rapid detox isn’t a magic bullet for addiction and is thought to be generally unsafe and ineffective.
Addiction is a disease of the brain, and it requires comprehensive addiction treatment in addition to safer and more traditional detox methods.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse problem, please reach out to our addiction specialists for guidance and support, at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.