What Is Rapid Detox? Everything You Need to Know

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on August 29th, 2022.

When you enter addiction rehabilitation for substance use, the first step is detoxing from alcohol or drugs. Many treatment programs offer traditional detox, which involves letting the substance naturally leave the body. You may participate in a medication-assisted detox treatment program to reduce uncomfortable symptoms that could potentially trigger a relapse.

Rapid detox has sparked interest in some looking to avoid a lengthy and uncomfortable detoxing process. However, there is some controversy behind this process, and some believe rapid detox is bad. Below, we'll guide you through everything you need to know about rapid detox and the best way to detox from drugs and alcohol.

What Is Rapid Detox?

Rapid alcohol or drug detox refers to speeding up the body's natural detoxification process by sedating clients using anesthesia and administering an opioid antagonist, like naltrexone. The drug blocks opioid receptors in the brain, forcing the body to enter detox sooner. A provider might administer other medications to help reduce discomfort and nausea. 

The idea is that once you wake up from sedation, you've completed detox and shouldn't experience any remaining withdrawal symptoms. However, you may still experience cravings, pain or nausea, but these are supposed to be minimal. People undergoing rapid detox must understand that it's not a complete treatment and additional therapies are necessary to get to the psychological root of their addiction.

Rapid detox has been used to help clients detox from:

  • Opioids
  • Heroin
  • Prescription painkillers
  • Other narcotics

Since naltrexone effectively disables opioid receptors, the treatment was most effective for rapid opiate drug detox. However, there is still some controversy about this treatment due to the high risks of relapse post-treatment, severe health effects and risk of death

The cost of rapid detox varies based on location, but individuals in the United States can expect to pay anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000 on average. Another reason rapid detox is controversial is its high costs despite the associated risks.

Is Rapid Detox Effective?

Some people may choose rapid detox to reduce their detox time, thinking of it as a quick solution to their addiction. Rapid detox only takes one day and occurs while you're under sedation, so it's considered painless, fast and easy. However, there's a significant debate about whether this treatment is effective. 

Anesthesia-assisted opioid detox has worked in the past to help clients overcome their withdrawal symptoms. An older study notes that all clients in their group were successfully detoxified after treatment with no adverse effects after waking up from sedation. 

While rapid detox can help clients eliminate substances from their system and quickly reduce their withdrawal symptoms, there is an extremely high relapse rate when it's the only treatment method.

Rapid detox is often appealing because people want to overcome their addiction as soon as possible rather than dealing with a 30- to a 90-day program. But rushing treatment means you miss essential therapies that help reduce your risk of relapse. It's critical to complete a well-rounded addiction treatment program to help you get to the root of your addiction and develop the skills to help you prevent relapse.

Is Rapid Detox Safe?

While rapid detox can be effective for many people, it's generally considered unsafe, as it administers an extremely high dose of naltrexone. This medication is also used in medication-assisted detox programs but at a reasonable dose.

There are some health risks of rapid detox to be aware of if you're considering the treatment. Detox happens so quickly during treatment that it's comparable to quitting cold turkey. For severe addictions where the body has developed an extreme dependence on substances, quitting cold turkey could be dangerous, with the risk of symptoms such as:

  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory failure
  • Delirium
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Psychosis
  • Coma or death

After the treatment finishes, you still have the potential to experience withdrawal symptoms since your brain no longer can produce the amount of dopamine you need to function and has to relearn this ability, which can cause numerous symptoms, including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion and paranoia

The residual withdrawal symptoms can cause a person to start using substances again, especially if they pursue no other form of treatment. In some cases, rapid detox can also cause problems with your electrolytes, which can cause blurred vision, weakness or diarrhea until your electrolytes are replenished.

Overall, rapid detox has some serious risks you should consider before participating in treatment. People with severe addictions can be more likely to experience these effects and relapse since they're not getting the additional treatment they need from these programs.

Alternatives to Rapid Detox

Rather than putting your health at risk with rapid detox, you should consider alternative methods that are proven effective and safe for overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. 

One of the most common detox methods is medical detox, which involves medications to help clients cope with their withdrawal symptoms. These medications are administered in a significantly smaller dose than in rapid detox, allowing the medicines to do their job without the associated risks of high dosages. 

Detoxing from substances with medication-assisted detox can take longer than rapid detox, with withdrawal symptoms lasting months in severe cases. The length of withdrawal symptoms depends on a few factors, including:

  • Substance type
  • Typical dose
  • Length of the addiction
  • Family history of addiction
  • Method of substance use
  • Underlying physical and mental conditions

Medication-assisted detox takes place under professional supervision, ensuring your safety and progress. During these detox programs, you'll also participate in different therapies to get to the root cause of your addiction. You may undergo mental health treatment if one or more of these conditions contributes to your addiction.

Another alternative to rapid detox is self-detox, where you handle your withdrawals at home. While detoxing at home is possible for some, it has its risks and is generally not recommended. Some people have severe addictions that require medical intervention to prevent life-threatening symptoms. You also wouldn't be able to participate in additional therapies that help prevent relapse if you tried to detox yourself.

The best way to detox from substances is to seek help from addiction specialists with a medication-assisted treatment program. These professionals will monitor your symptoms and administer safe doses of medication to ensure your comfort. It's safer to work with professionals than to detox from substances at home or rapidly.

Detox Safely With Diamond House Detox

Diamond House Detox is dedicated to helping our clients in Northern California overcome addiction and reclaim their lives. We have medically assisted detox programs to help our clients find relief from their withdrawal symptoms while they undergo treatment. These medications can also help prevent relapse by reducing cravings.

During your detox, you'll begin participating in various addiction therapies and treatments for underlying mental health conditions. We personalize your program to ensure you get a comprehensive treatment that addresses your individual needs. Take your life back and contact us today to learn more or get started.

Sources:

  1. https://diamondhousedetox.com/residential-stabilization-for-drug-and-alcohol-abuse/medically-assisted-detox/
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naltrexone 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6238a1.htm
  4. https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/study-finds-rapid-heroin-detoxification-procedure-under-anesthesia-does-not-work-and-can-result 
  5. https://pubs.asahq.org/anesthesiology/article/91/6/1639/38020/Rapid-Opioid-Detoxification-during-General
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331657/
  7. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-the-risks-of-quitting-cold-turkey-21813 
  8. https://diamondhousedetox.com/residential-stabilization-for-drug-and-alcohol-abuse/medically-assisted-detox/ 
  9. https://diamondhousedetox.com/addiction-therapy/
  10. https://diamondhousedetox.com/addiction-therapy/dual-diagnosis-treatment-center-of-northern-california/
  11. https://diamondhousedetox.com/contact-us/
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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