You may have heard about claims that “rapid detox” is a faster and easier way to quit heroin or prescription painkillers. While this procedure sounds like a miracle solution, there are serious risks and costs to consider. Here are answers to common questions about rapid detox and safer alternatives that are available for you or your loved one.

What Is Rapid Detox?

Rapid detoxification involves a doctor giving naltrexone (an opioid blocker) to speed the physical withdrawal from drugs. However, abrupt stopping of narcotics causes withdrawal symptoms, which can be agonizing. Therefore, medical providers give sedative medications to help the patient be more comfortable or even sleep through withdrawal.

Does Rapid Detox Work?

Rapid detox is meant to get people off drugs and ease withdrawal but is not a cure for addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine does not recommend rapid detox because it’s an unproven treatment even in light of some success stories. Even if rapid detox works for a few people, there are safer, more effective alternatives available.

How Fast is This Detox Method?

Detoxification only takes a few days, but the road to recovery takes much longer. A person using rapid detox will probably also need residential treatment or outpatient services. Relapse is common in narcotic addiction, so a person is back at square one if he or she starts using again.

What Are the Risks Associated With Rapid Detox?

While physical withdrawal can feel unbearable, medical experts say this process is not life-threatening. Rapid detox is a complex medical process and people can experience adverse reactions to the medications — some of which can be life-threatening.

How Much Does Rapid Detox Cost?

Depending on the course of treatment, this procedure costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. The process is done in the hospital and, because sedation and intensive monitoring is involved, the costs add up. Insurance companies usually won’t cover this treatment because it is not considered to be medically necessary.

What Are the Alternatives to Rapid Detox to Help With Withdrawal?

Two major medication options are used in detox: methadone or combination buprenorphine/naloxone. These drugs are given to help taper off an addictive drug, so detox is slower using this method. Methadone is an opioid but is less addictive because it doesn’t create a euphoric or “high” feeling. Buprenorphine is a mild opioid and includes an opioid blocker (naloxone) to prevent people from abusing the drug (e.g., crushing pills for injection). Doctors can prescribe other detox medications to manage symptoms of withdrawal as well.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

Rapid detox isn’t a silver bullet for addiction and is considered generally unsafe and ineffective. A proven method that works is medical detox under the supervision and care of professionals.  And since addiction is a brain disease, it requires fully comprehensive addiction treatment in addition to detox treatment. The Recovery Village staffs highly trained medical professionals that will work with you or your loved one to create an individualized treatment plan for your needs. Call us today.

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.