Opiate addiction is often difficult to treat due to the extreme physical withdrawal symptoms associated with this type of drug addiction. Drugs such as heroin, Methadone, Vicodin and Oxycodone are all considered opiates. When a person becomes physically addicted to an opiate, they must consistently use that opiate every few hours, or they start to experience symptoms of withdrawal.
One of the barriers to opiate addiction treatment is the fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which are often uncomfortable and painful. Withdrawal symptoms of opiate addiction include:
- Hot and cold sweats
- Muscle aches and pains
- Low energy
- Irritability and anxiety
- Abdominal cramping
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Because of the severity of these symptoms, it’s no surprise that people are drawn to a detoxification procedure advertised as quick and relatively painless. It’s known as ultra-rapid detoxification, and although there are clinics in the United States that support this method, it’s incredibly controversial.
Learn more about rapid detox, its dangers and a safer solution to opiate withdrawal.
What is Rapid Detox?
Ultra-rapid detox (URD), is a technique developed in the 1980s to help people detox from opiates. Rapid detox was developed because older detoxification techniques were painful and unsuccessful.
Rapid detox involves putting patients under general anesthesia and giving them opiate blockers, such as Naltrexone, which block the endorphin receptors. This process results in a rapid withdrawal from the physical side effects of opiate addiction.
Advantages of Rapid Detox
The advantages of rapid detox include the quick detox period and lack of withdrawal symptoms. Rapid detox takes place in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Patients are usually discharged within 48 hours following recovery from anesthesia and an assessment of their physical well-being. The medical professionals who perform this procedure are highly trained and experienced.
Dangers of Rapid Detox
Although several addiction centers still perform rapid detox, the risks greatly outweigh the benefits. Even though the procedure is almost always successful, it is a major shock to the patient’s system. Additionally, approximately 1/500 to 1/1,000 patients die after the procedure, and the exact cause of death is unknown.
Concerns about ultra-rapid detox have been published in medical literature as early as 1997. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, although many clinics advertised ultra-rapid detox as virtually painless, “many addiction experts say that until claims of superior relapse rates for the ultra-rapid detoxification methods are proven and concerns about the potential risks are allayed, the procedure should be considered experimental.”
Additionally, a Cochrane Review in 2001 concluded that managing withdrawal through rapid detox should be regarded as “experimental with both risks and benefits remaining uncertain.”
There are also many studies that found withdrawal isn’t any easier with rapid detox. Researcher Dr. Eric Collins and colleagues at the College of Physicians And Surgeons of Columbia University concluded that there is no compelling reason to use anesthesia in the treatment of opiate addiction. The study also found that withdrawal is no easier with rapid detox.
In 2005, the American Society of Addiction Medication reversed its five-year policy supporting rapid drug detox, saying the procedure has “uncertain risks and benefits and its use in clinical settings is not supportable.”
Also, many people report not feeling well after waking up. A person recovering from rapid detox often stays in bed for one to three days before they’re able to leave the hospital, and for some people, recovery time is much longer.
It’s also important to note that although rapid detox may result in withdrawal from opiates, it doesn’t address the underlying reasons for why a person used opiates in the first place. Rapid detox is not the end of a person’s journey to being free of drug addiction.
Medical Detox: A Safer Alternative
Using opiates for an extended period of time causes a physical dependence or addiction and stopping use often results in severe withdrawal symptoms. For many, trying to stop using on their own can be dangerous – and even painful – which is why a supervised withdrawal is advised.
The thought of undergoing opiate withdrawal under anesthesia may sound promising, but the reality is that rapid detox is incredibly dangerous. A safer alternative to withdrawal from opiates is medical detox. With medical detox, a person undergoes a medically supervised detox in a hospital or residential treatment center that has a detoxification unit. Inpatient medical detoxification allows the patient to be closely monitored 24/7, and medication can also be given to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms.
Because patients are monitored around the clock, the detox may go much faster – often times between six to 14 days. After the detox is complete, they are able to go home or go for further treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with opiate addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. Call today to learn about our detox and rehab programs.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village 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.