When a person struggles with an opioid addiction, the road to recovery can be complicated and intimidating. Professional treatment is almost always necessary, but one of the most inhibitive barriers to seeking treatment is the idea of going through opioid withdrawal. Many options are available to help withdrawal, which includes rapid detox. However, some wonder is rapid detox dangerous?
As you or a loved one may understand all too well, withdrawing from opioids is a distressing experience. Signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal include irritability, anxiety, gastrointestinal upset, pain, insomnia, tremors, and extreme drug cravings. Such intense effects deter many individuals from seeking the professional help they need and desperately want, if for no other reason than the prospect of spending at least 90 days in an addiction treatment program—the minimum effective duration, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse—feels like an unreachable goal obstructed by an initial and seemingly unbearable withdrawal period.
Rapid Detox as a Solution
One potential solution to this barrier to treatment is rapid detox. In that time, rapid detox—alternatively called anesthesia-assisted detoxification, accelerated opioid detox, rapid opiate detox, and ultra-rapid detox—has undergone considerable innovations and iterations.
Today, rapid detox stands as a potential and powerful catalyst to recovery for many of the 2 million Americans living with opioid use disorder. As a modality, it receives considerable scrutiny from the medical community, with many allegations made regarding its safety and effectiveness. It’s no wonder some people ask is rapid detox dangerous. But are such allegations correct?
At the Waismann Method®, our team sets the bar for the rapid detox protocol. We stand proudly behind our decades of experience and provide our services in a full-service accredited hospital where a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals is ready to evaluate, consult and support our medical director. We’re happy to answer your questions about rapid detox and help you understand its risks and benefits.
How Does Rapid Detox Work?
Rapid detox quickly removes opioids from a person’s body (specifically, from the opioid receptors within the central nervous system). This occurs through the administration of FDA-approved medications like naloxone (acting as an opioid-antagonist) while the person is under sedation.
Because they’re sedated, a person effectively avoids the conscious experience of opioid withdrawal, which is completed in about 90 minutes or less. (Unlike other rapid detox programs, however, the Waismann Method® doesn’t end here, as we’ll see.) And since there’s no need to actively suffer through withdrawal symptoms—which can otherwise last up to 5 to 7 days (or even weeks, as is the case with some long-lasting drugs like methadone)—coming off opioids and initializing treatment becomes much more feasible.
Benefits of Rapid Detox
Rapid detox has proven to be safe and successful if it meets a few key criteria :
- The treatment is provided by a board-certified anesthesiologist with extensive experience in opioid treatment.
- The treatment is provided at an accredited and full-service hospital. (As a cost-cutting method, some rapid detox programs occur in ambulatory clinics or surgical centers or even unaccredited hospitals, where immediate and superior medical resources are unavailable—and if they are, at a subpar level.)
- Appropriate candidates receive the treatment—and only following thorough and comprehensive medical evaluations and screenings. (With Waismann Method®, patients are not pushed to rapid detox when they are not an optimal candidate because other medically assisted options are available.)
When these essential parameters are met and the treatment is performed responsibly on eligible patients, rapid detox has nearly a 100% success rate. What does this mean? Patients are no longer physically dependent on opioids nor impaired by the cognitive influence of opioids. This renders them much more mentally clear and emotionally (and physically) prepared to engage in subsequent therapy.
Of course, many emotional issues driving addiction cannot be fully resolved in a matter of 1, 30, 60 or 90 days, and no reputable rapid detox program would make such a claim. Sometimes continuous mental health therapy over the course of many years is necessary.
But being opioid-free—which rapid detox provides—allows the patient a much better chance to adhere to and progress in emotional and behavioral treatment.
Backed by Research
Scientific research supports rapid detox. For example, a 1997 randomized controlled study involving 300 subjects with treatment-resistant heroin addiction underwent two forms of medically-assisted rapid detox. 100% of the subjects achieved clinically successful detox and 93% remained abstinent 30 days later.
A more recent paper published in a peer-reviewed journal reviewed 9 studies on rapid detox and concluded that the technique “constitutes a safe and effective solution for opiate addicted patients.” The authors point out that more rigorous research is indicated to clarify the treatment’s validity, safety, and effectiveness—a welcome and sensible position.
Possible Risks of Rapid Detox
Even with the research and data mentioned above, some may read stories elsewhere and still wonder is rapid detox dangerous. As mentioned, rapid detox has some criticism. But this criticism needs to be evaluated beyond clickbait face value.
Risk of Adverse Effects
To begin, rapid detox can pose real and potentially serious risks in some cases. Reported complications include pulmonary distress, cardiac abnormalities, renal failure, hormonal dysregulation, and delirium; also, there are reports of death.
However, it’s important to remember that not all centers follow adequate safety protocols. And like any medical intervention, rapid detox does carry at least some level of risk. But these risks are drastically mitigated when treatment is provided under the parameters previously described—e.g., at a full-service hospital and by an experienced board-certified M.D., which is the standard of care afforded to patients of the Waismann® Method.
Another criticism of rapid detox is that patients allegedly have a higher relapse rate compared to those undergoing conventional treatments. Unfortunately, this argument rests on a considerable amount of intellectual dishonesty.
This is because the conventional method of treatment for opioid use disorder involves long-term medication use—so-called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Many clinicians and governing bodies consider MAT the “gold standard” for opioid addiction treatment. (It’s also worth mentioning that MAT is probably more profitable from a provider perspective, since it relies on a model of long-term management rather than immediate resolution.)
The Problem with Comparing Success Rates of Rapid Detox to Those of MAT is That These Methodologies Aren’t Comparable
With MAT, patients remain on opioids indefinitely. Heavily regulated and sometimes subsidized, and “prescribed” drugs (albeit much safer ones) like methadone or Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) simply replace heroin and other illicitly obtained drugs. To be clear, MAT drugs are certainly the safer option if a person must choose between these and illicit street drugs. Sometimes, providers use drugs like Suboxone as a short term titration, which can help with a person overcoming withdrawal.
But in a practical way, patients undergoing MAT cannot truly “relapse” in the conventional sense since they don’t stop using opioids in the first place. This leads to a major confounding factor—often ignored by critics of rapid detox—which can skew the comparison of efficacy between rapid detox and MAT.
This is not to denigrate MAT, per se. But to grossly dismiss rapid detox as a viable treatment option is myopic at best and could even cost human lives at worst.
To summarize so far, the science behind rapid detox is sound based on scientific literature. As a treatment, its safety and success depend largely on where the treatment occurs and by whom. Further research would be beneficial to illuminate rapid detox’s role in the opioid crisis. In the meantime, it remains a valuable resource for appropriate candidates in the appropriate setting and with an adequate physician.
Rapid Detox—The Waismann Method® Way
Is rapid detox dangerous? When performed in proper conditions, it achieves a nearly 100% success rate. The Waismann Method® is an industry leader and we provide our anesthesia-assisted detox at a full-service accredited hospital. The detoxification process occurs in private room and under the direct care of a quadruple board-certified medical doctor who has more than 21 years of direct clinical experience in anesthesia-assisted rapid detoxification, medically assisted detoxification without anesthesia, and opioid use disorder treatment.
Our Waismann Method® detox protocols are fully customized to meet each patient’s unique needs. Patients also enjoy a short stay at our exclusive recovery center. This optimizes a patient’s comfort and helps them successfully transition into their journey toward recovery. Here’s why:
When a patient is fully detoxed from opioids, a normal physiological regulation occurs. Patients are hypersensitive as their home metabolism tries to adjust. There are fears, discomforts and readjustments happening. Having a safe and professional environment throughout this challenging period is not just beneficial but necessary. With the Waismann Method®, we don’t cut corners. Our patients’ safety, comfort, and success are what we’ve spent the last two decades fighting for.
Like any other medical procedure, rapid detox is as safe and effective as the experience and responsibility of the doctor performing the treatment, the availability of supportive medical resources, and the appropriateness of the candidate undergoing the service. It’s not a panacea, but clinical and case study evidence does suggest that rapid detox is an important steppingstone for many individuals searching for sobriety.
Are you or a loved one looking to be free of opioids? Contact the Waismann Method® treatment team today at 855-766-4620 to schedule a consultation and find out more about how we may be able to help.