Addiction is a lasting disease of the brain that instigates perpetual drug- or alcohol-seeking behaviors from the inflicted, regardless of the harm said behaviors cause, per the Mayo Clinic. Across the nation, there were approximately 23.5 million people addicted to drugs and alcohol in 2010, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Among the many methods one can choose to withdraw from their addiction to illicit drugs or alcohol, there is rapid detox.
Rapid Detox Details
This method condenses detoxing from drugs or alcohol into shorter periods of time while the patient is under sedation to deliver addicts with the same end result in a fraction of the time without the need to endure withdrawal. One study touted that 55 percent of rapid detox patients were still abstaining six months later, but notes this only applied to opiate patients.
Fact or Fiction?
A common question about rapid detox is whether or not it’s even real. The short answer is yes, it’s real; however, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice, or even a safe choice. The upsides of rapid detox that gather so much attention are the brief timeline and the ability for users to bypass the discomfort commonly associated with detox, such as:
The procedure is typically used for heroin and other opiate addicts; however, as withdrawal from these drugs can be dangerous, rapid detox can also bring with it potential risks. During rapid detox, the addict is put under general anesthesia and then an opioid antagonist like naltrexone is administered along with non-opioid clonidine. Withdrawal will set in quickly, and the patient essentially detoxes while asleep. After waking up, a recovery period of 24 to 48 hours is generally all that the addict is left to deal with before detox is complete.
Rapid detox was popularized in the 1980s and is still praised by many despite solid research on its lack of efficacy. George Mason University reports numbers aimed at debunking the success rates touted by others, citing no higher rate of efficacy for rapid detox than other detoxification methods.
Being put under general anesthesia carries its own risks — the most significant being death. MedPage reported on seven patients who had adverse reactions to rapid detox — two of those reactions were fatalities — at one facility. In addition, some critics of rapid detox believe it deprives the patient of the withdrawal experience, noting it as a necessary component in recovery with many addicts remaining abstinent from substance use because they don’t ever want to experience withdrawal again.
A quarter of the 20 patients in one 2004 Journal of Addictive Diseases study suffered from delirium during the first day of rapid detox and had to end the treatment process. Thus, it doesn’t work for everyone and some symptoms are too problematic to allow for the continuation of the procedure. More importantly, the risks don’t really outweigh the benefits because there’s no clear-cut evidence that there are any. Currently, no concrete data exists that names rapid detoxification as being superior to or more effective than traditional detox methods. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence points out the lingering presence of withdrawal symptoms in patients a day after the treatment and notes that 80 percent of the patients in the study had relapsed at a six-month checkup.
A Better Alternative
Rapid detox certainly isn’t the only method of withdrawal for substance abuse and addiction patients. Traditional detox is highly recommended to all patients, regardless of their preferred substance. For those dependent on benzodiazepines and some other anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, medically supervised long-term detox may be recommended in which the patient would slowly be tapered off the abused drug by decreasing the dosage over time.
Studies like the one published in the British Medical Journal boast an 88 to 100 percent rate of success among volunteers attempting to quit using benzodiazepines via the use of a gradual withdrawal program, noting that about one-third of them had no further issues following withdrawal. Of primary concern are opiate addicts because they seek rapid detox more than anyone else. For these addicts, traditional detox with opioid antagonists is far safer and a more controlled method of withdrawal than any other. Follow-up care via methadone maintenance or buprenorphine treatment is the best care approach.
A Healthy Mind
When you’re thinking about which method of detox is best for you, take your personal health into account. One of the primary concerns you should be keeping in the forefront of your mind is your mental health state. It is important to keep an open mind, as 45.9 million people nationwide have a mental health disorder, per The Atlantic.
Perhaps what is more noteworthy is that mental illness has a profound place in the lives of many substance abusers and addicts, even being attributed as the cause of dependency in some patients. Depressive and anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses among this population, but nothing can be ruled out. Likewise, having one mental health disorder makes you more likely to have another. Furthermore, depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems among substance abusers, with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reporting that 20 percent of anxiety and depression sufferers in the United States have a substance use or alcohol use disorder.
Orlando Recovery Center offers a variety of withdrawal services that can be tailored to meet your individual needs. We understand all patients aren’t alike and what works well for one person may not at all for another. For this reason, we recognize the importance of getting to know our patients, digging deep into their addiction problems and aligning their habits with the detox program most likely to produce successful results based on years of research and experience on our behalf. Call us today and let us show you the way to your future.
Medical Disclaimer: The Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.