As opioid misuse and addiction continues to prevail in the United States, more and more individuals are seeking out methods for opioid detox and treatment. However, in a society that places high value on immediacy, many people rush to choose the quickest method of detox possible.
Unfortunately, just because rapid or ultra-rapid detox are the quickest methods of opioid detox, this does not mean they’re the safest or most effective methods.
With so many concerns and uncertainties surrounding the processes behind rapid and ultra-rapid detox, is this “quick-fix” really worth the risks?
What Is Detox?
For someone who is suffering from an opioid addiction, detox is the period of time it takes for the body to get rid of the toxic drugs that have been in their system for an extended period of time. To successfully treat opioid addiction, this is a necessary step to rid the body’s system of the harmful influence of prescription painkillers.
It is recommended that detox from opioids be done under medical supervision. This way, doctors are able to make a patient more comfortable, manage withdrawal symptoms, and intervene quickly if something goes wrong. Unsupervised detox from opioids can be highly dangerous, even deadly.
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What Is Rapid Detox And Ultra-Rapid Detox?
Introduced in the 80s, rapid detox is formally called anesthesia-assisted opiate detoxification. The purpose of this type of treatment is to complete the withdrawal process as quickly as possible to shorten the total time of detox from opioids. Since older detoxification methods were extremely painful, rapid detox was developed to help reduce pain and increase the number of patients that detoxed successfully.
There are two different means of speeding up the detox process:
- Rapid detox: A patient is given medication to speed up the onset and process of detox, then administered a number of medications to help treat withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox.
- Ultra-rapid detox: The patient is sedated with a general anesthesia. Once the anesthesia has taken effect, doctors will administer an opioid blocker. The opioid blocker forces the body to begin detox. In theory, once a patient wakes up from sedation, the majority of the uncomfortable symptoms have already passed.
The accelerated detoxification process will typically last six to eight hours.
However, since there is very little research on these procedures, no one is quite sure if the benefits of rapid detoxification outweigh the risks. Due to this, these methods of treatment remain quite controversial.
Why Do People Choose Rapid or Ultra-Rapid Detox?
“Anesthesia-assisted rapid opiate detoxification appeals to patients who want a ‘magic bullet’ to treat their addiction,” explained experts with the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSMA) when asked why patients typically choose to undergo an accelerated detoxification process. “Patients do not wish to feel the pain of withdrawal. Rather they want to go to sleep and ‘wake up clean.”
CSMA experts continue to explain that treatment providers play into their patient’s unrealistic expectations of the anesthesia-assisted rapid opiate detoxification process. When patients wake up from the procedure, they expect to feel normal again. However, this is rarely the case.
More often than not, patients will continue to feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms for a period of time after the detox process.
Since many patients are given a mixture of drugs to mask the severe side effects of rapid detox, the duration of these painful symptoms is unknown. These uncertainties will often steer people away from the rapid or ultra-rapid detox.
Risk Of Rapid Detox And Ultra-Rapid Detox
While sleeping through or speeding up the detox process can sound appealing, it can come with intense complications such as:
- Muscle aches
- Rapid breathing
- Respiratory distress
- Acute renal failure
- Attempted suicide
After conducting a clinical trial, The National Council on Drug Abuse felt these methods carried serious risks. The study’s author noted: “Patients should consider the many risks associated with this approach, including fluid accumulation in the lungs, metabolic complications of diabetes, and a worsening of underlying bipolar illness, as well as other potentially serious adverse events.”
Due to all of the risks outlined above and the limited understanding of these procedures, rapid detox patients must be carefully selected. To be considered for one of these procedures, doctor’s suggest that a person must be generally healthy and have no more than two co-occurring disorders or conditions.
If these factors are not thoroughly understood prior to these procedures, it can lead to further complications or adverse reactions.
How Successful Are These Methods Of Detox?
Generally speaking, rapid detox is not known to be any more effective than other detox methods for abstinence or treatment retention.
In a study conducted by The American Medical Association, they noted that clients treated via rapid or ultra-rapid detox showed greater discomfort following detox treatment, a higher rate of adverse side effects and no better resistance against relapse. The study concluded that “there is no compelling reason to use general anesthesia in the treatment of opiate dependence, especially as it presents particular safety concerns.”
These safety concerns only grow when considering patients will experience two alternative forms of withdrawal that are not involved in other detox methods- anesthesia and precipitated withdrawal.
Due to all of the risks associated with rapid detox methods, the California Society of Addiction Medicine has stated that they do not support the routine use of this procedure- and many other treatment providers agree.
What Happens After Detox?
Regardless of method, detox does not represent full treatment for addiction or opioid dependency. While detox is important, it is only the first step to recovery.
After detox has been completed, it’s critical that patients seek out an addiction treatment program that will help them maintain their sobriety. Working with professionals after detox will help patients set boundaries, build healthy relationships and discover methods to help combat cravings during recovery.
While there is no cure for addiction, it’s a disease that can be managed with the right tools, guidance and support.
If you or a loved have questions about detox, or is struggling with addiction, contact one of our treatment specialists at 888-512-3326.