Rapid Opioid and Alcohol Detox: What You Need To Know

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Medically Reviewed

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This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Rapid detox can be risky. Undergoing medical detox with professional support and supervision can be a better alternative to help you overcome addiction.

Rapid detox is a dangerous way to detox from opioids and is generally not recommended by most medical professionals. This form of detox typically involves being placed into a medically induced coma while your body goes through opioid detox at an accelerated rate. This process puts a lot of stress on your body and exposes you to increased risks.

What Is Rapid Detox?

Rapid detox is a newer form of opioid detox often considered less safe than other detox options. Rapid detox involves being placed under anesthesia and undergoing an accelerated detox. While under anesthesia, a tube is placed down your throat into your lungs, and a machine breathes for you. You are given a medicine that rapidly reverses the effects of opioids, and your body undergoes several days’ worth of detox effects in 24–48 hours.

Rapid Detox vs. Medical Detox

Rapid detox can sometimes be confused with medical detox; however, the two are quite different. Rapid detox involves ICU monitoring and requires being put into a medically induced coma while withdrawing from opioids.

Medical detox includes having a medical team follow your detox and provide you with treatments that help with the withdrawal symptoms you may experience. Medical detox supports your body’s natural detox rather than accelerating it.

Safety Concerns of Rapid Detox

While natural or medical opioid detox is rarely dangerous, rapid detox carries several hazards. Going under anesthesia for a prolonged period prevents you from being able to breathe on your own, meaning a ventilator will breathe for you. This highly specialized equipment can increase the risk of lung damage or infection. Additionally, an error can easily result in suffocation. The anesthesia used will often not be as closely monitored as during a surgical procedure and will typically be provided in an ICU room instead of an operating suite with a surgical team.

In addition to the dangers of being put into a medically induced coma for a day or more, your body also undergoes much more stress. Medicine is given to accelerate detox, making symptoms more intense than they would be naturally. While being in a coma makes consciously experiencing these symptoms less likely, they can still place artificially intense stress on your body, increasing the risk of health problems.

Symptoms you may be likely to experience during rapid detox that would not typically be anticipated include:

  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory distress
  • Dehydration
  • Infections

Mental Health Implications

Rapid detox is designed to minimize the physical symptoms but does not address the psychological symptoms that can develop. Cravings, depression and anxiety are common after detox as you learn to cope in new ways that do not include using opioids. 

Rapid detox does not support your mental health, but medical detoxes do. During a medical detox, you will begin learning new ways to cope and strategies to help overcome symptoms like cravings and anxiety. The support a medical detox provides is one of the many reasons it is typically recommended over rapid detox.

Is Rapid Detox Effective?

While there are some safety concerns, rapid detox is generally effective at getting someone through detox. The effectiveness of rapid detox, however, does not last. Relapse rates are high when using rapid detox, as is the likelihood of undergoing detox multiple times.

One of the main reasons that rapid detox is thought to be less effective than medical detox is that medical detox emphasizes follow-up care and rehab. Rehab focuses on learning strategies for overcoming cravings and maintaining sobriety. Programs focusing solely on detox are likely to help someone come off of opioids but are unlikely to help the person stay off them.

Withdrawal Symptoms After Rapid Detox

Rapid detox is designed to help prevent physical withdrawal symptoms; however, psychological symptoms can still occur. After a rapid detox, someone may notice cravings, anxiety, depression or other psychological symptoms. These symptoms can also occur after a medical detox; however, medical detox will generally equip someone to handle them better. 

Alternatives to Rapid Detox

There are several potential alternatives to rapid opioid detox. You can undergo a medical detox, in which you stop using opioids, and medical professionals help treat symptoms that occur until withdrawal symptoms are over. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is also an option, in which you transition off of the opioids you are using onto a potentially less addictive opioid, like methadone or buprenorphine. You will then be better positioned to stop using opioids altogether.

Benefits of Medical Detox

Medical detox has several benefits compared to rapid detox and self-detox without medical support. Medical detox is safer than rapid detox, avoiding the intense stresses the process can place on the body and the dangers of prolonged anesthesia use. Medical detox also helps you be more comfortable than you would be detoxing by yourself, and medical professionals can recognize any potential detox-related dangers before they become serious.

While medical detox can provide the best balance of safety and comfort, it also helps you complete it. It can be tempting to stop the process and begin using again during detox. Medical detox simultaneously decreases the discomfort of detox and provides you with a team of professionals who can help support and encourage you during detox. Medical detoxes also provide transitional support into the next recovery phase, helping you maintain freedom from addiction.

Relapse & Overdose Risk

Opioid addiction is typically considered a chronic problem, with relapse often occurring. This makes aftercare important, helping you avoid the potential pitfalls that can follow a period of success. Comprehensive aftercare programs can help you achieve long-term recovery and sobriety that a simple detox cannot.

One essential consideration related to relapse is the increased risk of an overdose. If you begin using opioids again, it can be easy to overdose, as your body will not be able to handle the same dose that it did when you previously used opioids.

Check Out Our Detox and Treatment Options at Orlando Recovery Center

Orlando Recovery Center offers many withdrawal services tailored to your needs. We recognize the importance of getting to know our patients, digging deep into their addiction problems and aligning their habits with the medical detox program most likely to produce successful results. Our care for you will be based on years of research, experience and a compassionate, supporting environment. We care about helping you achieve your best life and break free from the constraints of addiction. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Sources

Gold, Carl G., et al. “Rapid Opioid Detoxification during Gener[…]f 20 Patients.” Anesthesiology, December 1999. Accessed October 13, 2022.

The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. “What are the pros and cons of detoxifica[…]Rapid Detox)?” September 2013. Accessed October 13, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Deaths and Severe Adverse Events Associa[…]rk City, 2012.” September 27, 2013. Accessed October 13, 2022.

Forozeshfard, Mohammad, et al. “Six-Month Follow-Up Study of Ultrarapid […]th Naltrexone.” International Journal of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction, September 17, 2014. Accessed October 13, 2022.

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