What is Rapid Detox?

family support in sobriety

Rapid detox is a controversial procedure that promises to get a client through the withdrawal process in as little as a day. It’s not medically endorsed and makes no scientific sense. It makes no common sense, either. It’s little more than a medical gimmick. Moreover, it’s inherently dangerous.

The process makes use of sedation, anesthesia, and a drug called Naltrexone. Not to be confused with Narcan or naloxone, which is used to rescue victims of acute opioid overdose from death. While the patient is being administered the Naltrexone, they will be heavily sedated and unconscious. 

Naltrexone is a drug normally used to help recovering opioid addicts stay clean in safe dosages. However, when used for that purpose, it’s given only after the person has completely detoxed from opioids. Naltrexone works by binding itself to most of the brain’s opioid receptor sites, but not to activate them. Only one molecule can take over a receptor site at a time. Naltrexone is able to knock any existing opioid molecule off a receptor, replacing it.

Any circulating opioid molecules cannot attach to any receptors while the Naltrexone is there. This is because Naltrexone has a higher affinity with the brain’s opioid receptors. Naltrexone receptor binding will cause instant, full-blown withdrawal for any person addicted to opioids. This is the reasoning behind the rapid detox sedation.

The Flaws In The Logic Behind Rapid Detox

Before talking about the risks, it is important to comprehend why rapid detox can be considered bogus. For starters, Naltrexone only blocks the effects of opioids on the brain, stopping opioids from reaching the brain at a cellular level. Still, even with double the recommended dose, Naltrexone wears off in about 48 hours. 

The dose is yet another issue with the rapid detox theory. Each person requires a different dose of Naltrexone, it is not a one-size-fits-all method. It might also require some trial and error to figure out what the right dose for a patient is – which would take time. Therefore, with the person unconscious, it can be harder to tell whether the dose administered might be triggering any health issues.

The body requires time to adjust to the medicine and its possible side effects. Injecting a high dose at once might bring on so many side effects that it might just be best to go through normal detox. Overdosing on Naltrexone is also a possibility, which would require an immediate medical procedure. An overdose might not be detected if the person is sedated and not awake. And it might be too late by the time people realize something is wrong.

As a matter of fact, people taking Naltrexone are recommended to wait a few days since last taking opioids – a minimum of 7 to 10 days, to be exact. It does not work like naloxone would, for instance, which is used in case of overdoses, with immediate action. Not doing so might cause withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it cannot be used as the detox treatment per se.

If the person is addicted and dependent on opioids when taking it, it will also trigger withdrawal symptoms. This could make detox much harder since the symptoms suppressed will come all at once when the Naltrexone wears off. That is why Naltrexone is meant to be taken little by little for a prolonged period of time. 

These are just some of the scientific reasons why rapid detox is not only ineffective but also dangerous. There are other issues regarding treatment requirements, which we will discuss further on.

Why Rapid Detox Isn’t Considered Safe

Not only is rapid detox not considered a proper treatment for addiction, but it is also unsafe. The so-called rapid detox technique has been discontinued by many centers that used to perform it. Some of the risks of receiving rapid detox include:

  • Paranoia
  • Heart complications
  • Infection
  • Nausea
  • Very high fever
  • Drug reactions
  • Vomiting

The Risk of Aspiration

Aspiration occurs when an unconscious person throws up, and part of the substance goes into their lungs. It is actually the reason why you must always refrain from eating for a period of time before a surgical procedure. Still, not eating isn’t a guarantee that aspiration won’t occur even for simple procedures, let alone for rapid detox. People might still aspirate stomach acids and enzymes from saliva into their lungs, causing temporary to permanent respiratory difficulties.

Sedation and anesthesia should never be given for unnecessary reasons or outside of a surgical setting. The entire process, from injection for sedation, comes with risks that should not be taken if not needed. Patients can easily have infections that can cause serious complications in their system.

Even without Naltrexone, a withdrawing addict’s brain receptors will be clean of opioids early on in the withdrawal process. The extra strong dose of Naltrexone can only help clear it more quickly, but only when taken properly.

As mentioned, the body metabolizes Naltrexone within a day or two. Detoxing the opioid receptors has almost nothing to do with a comfortable withdrawal process. The patient may be comfortable while they are sedated, but in a few days, they’ll be on their own to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. 

In summary: all rapid detox does is accelerate the chemical detox process in the first few hours. It does not stop the withdrawal symptoms from happening for those who are opiate dependent. Also, it does not treat the addiction in the slightest. It is basically a risk to take just to accelerate detox by a few hours. 

Rapid Detox and Relapse

Another problem with rapid detox is that it fails to address the underlying problems that led to the addiction in the first place. There is more to addiction than just physical effects and chemical imbalances. So even if rapid detox were safe and effective, there would still be psychiatric and emotional issues left untreated. Detoxing is pointless if you’re just going to take it up again because you’ve been given no tools to help you stay clean.

That’s not even taking into account the physical process of drug withdrawal. The body can’t heal from anything in a few hours, so why would it heal from weeks or years of addiction? Drug dependency and addiction took time for your brain and body to develop and become used to.

It takes time for the body to recover from physical drug dependency. Opioid rapid detox claims that Naltrexone cleans the brain’s receptors of all opioids. While it helps deal with immediate cravings, it can bring on many symptoms of withdrawal for those who are dependent.

Rapid detox also does nothing to correct the brain’s altered brain chemistry and general imbalance. Prolonged exposure to drugs can make the brain need them in order to function properly, thanks to the altered production of chemicals, enzymes, and hormones. This is the chemical aspect of addiction, which is why detox is required as the first step for addiction treatment. The body needs to fix this imbalance. 

The brain will eventually ramp up its own correct production of critical brain chemicals, such as dopamine and endorphins. But it takes time, and it might even take the help of meds while the patient is detoxing. 

Overcoming addiction also requires relapse prevention. Even some of the best rehab centers in the country still have significant relapse rates in the long run. What good could a procedure that lasts a few hours possibly do? 

What Should I Expect From A Safe Detox?

For those who are hoping to detox quickly, know that the process of detox depends on a number of factors. That includes the level of addiction, dosage being taken at the time, and how often, genetics and family history, issues with mental illnesses, and many more. Physical symptoms, however, tend to average anywhere between 5 to 7 days.

That said, a person might choose to detox by either quitting cold turkey or with medical assistance. Others might try to quit by taking smaller and smaller doses, which would require a lot of self-control. 

There are a number of risks that come from abruptly cutting off supplies of drugs to your system, especially on your own. You’d be at risk of experiencing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms with no immediate medical help available. Some of the possible effects of opiate abstinence include:

  • Anxiety, agitation, and/or restlessness
  • Sweating profusely, tearing eyes, and producing more bodily fluids than usual
  • Muscle aches and/or stiffness
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Goosebumps and chills
  • Irregular/accelerated heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Dilated pupils

While the withdrawal itself might not be life-threatening for most, the possible outcomes from it might. Some people become extremely dehydrated from the process. Others might become restless to the point of not sleeping for days, which in turn, can even cause hallucinations. 

The worst issue, however, is relapsing, or “taking one little dose” after starting the process. As a desperate attempt to lessen symptoms, some might try to take a small dose to feel better. This could prove to be too much stimuli at a time when the body is already weakened. 

That is why the safest option available is medically-assisted detox, during which patients get medical help as they experience such symptoms. That way, they will be supervised, have no opportunity for relapse, and pain management services will be administered safely. In case of an emergency procedure being needed, trained personnel can be with them in a matter of seconds.

What Comes After Detox?

The next step would be a psychiatric treatment for addiction, which addresses the psychological matters. There is a wide variety of treatment choices available. But they are all focused on therapy, counseling, support groups, relapse prevention, and in some cases, administering meds to help patients recover smoothly.

If your addiction is in its early stages, you can consider outpatient treatment. This is much less expensive than inpatient treatment and also allows you to continue with your daily life and routine. They only require that you come to the facilities for treatment sessions. 

If your addiction is more severe, residential or, inpatient rehab is probably the best choice. In some cases, it might be the only viable choice, too. For residential treatment, patients need to check-in and stay in the facility until the end of the program. Some patients might also go from inpatient to outpatient as they try to transition into their daily routines gradually.

Once the rehab program is done, recovering patients have to continue working on their sobriety. For that, it is recommended that they attend support groups and keep on going to therapy or continue their psychiatric treatment. This is especially the case for those suffering from dual diagnosis, a condition where the patient experiences two disorders – a psychiatric one and a substance abuse one.

Avoiding relapse also requires some lifestyle changes for some. Those who don’t live in a healthy, stable environment with a proper support system are at risk of falling back into addiction. For them, there is the option of sober living, where they will have fewer opportunities and triggers in their daily lives.

Ask for Help at Coastal Detox

Recovery for addiction is a process, not a simple, one-time procedure. There is no way to cut corners for it, and each person has their own pace and limitations. No matter what step of the journey you are in, we at Coastal Detox can help you through until the end.

Some people might want a rapid detox process for fear of what they would face during treatment, and especially during detox. At our facilities, you are sure to receive all the help needed, along with the best quality infrastructure. You can count on all the comfort that you can get during rehabilitation, from zen gardens and gyms to chef-prepared meals and luxurious accommodations.

If you need help figuring out financing options and insurance coverage, we can help too. Coastal detox has teamed up with major insurance providers in order to make treatment plans more affordable. 

We will do everything we can to make sure your detox and recovery experience goes smoothly. Contact us today, and we will be happy to answer all your questions and help you find the best detox, inpatient, or outpatient plan for you.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.