Rapid Detox for Addiction: Does It Work?

Addiction is a very complex, almost enigmatic disease that’s very different from virtually all other diseases. While most others are either physical or psychological, addiction lies somewhere in between aspects of both a physical and psychological illness. This complicated nature has made the treatment of addiction and the development of effective rehabilitation techniques a rather lengthy process.

However, today we know that every addict develops and suffer from addiction in their own, unique ways, which makes it essential for people to be treated as individuals rather than shoehorned into the same type of programs with the same curricula. Instead, an addiction treatment plan consists of the programs and services that best address a person’s recovery needs, which vary from one person to the next.

While the components of an effective recovery plan are dependent on a person’s individual needs, it’s recommended that a person begins with detox treatment before progressing into an inpatient program followed by some form of continued treatment or aftercare such as an intensive outpatient program, transitional living, or even just twelve-step meetings.

With such a recovery plan as this, a person has a very high chance of achieving lasting sobriety since the plan would include a sufficient length of treatment while addressing physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual recovery needs. But even with this recovery plan, there’s still much room for personalization and variation.

There are multiple types of addiction treatment, including inpatient and outpatient programs, detox treatment, and aftercare. Moreover, there are multiple types of each form of treatment, such as residential and extended care inpatient programs, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, and so on.

When it comes to detox treatment, the most common programs that are available are medical detox treatment, which is a form of inpatient treatment, and outpatient detox treatment. And there’s one other type of detox treatment, one that’s not nearly as common as the other types, but one that alleges to significantly reduce the amount of time necessary to overcome an addiction.

What Exactly Is a Rapid Detox?

When a person abuses alcohol or drugs, the brain experiences a surge in certain neurochemicals. Specifically, levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin spike, causing feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Wanting to experience those feelings, again and again, a person will continue abusing alcohol or drugs with increasing frequency. But since the brain is experiencing frequent surges in neurotransmitters, it begins to adapt to the substance abuse by adjusting its natural production of those chemicals in an effort to restore the body to equilibrium.

In other words, the neurochemical spikes caused by substance abuse cause the body to reduce or cease its own production to compensate. This illustrates how a person becomes physically dependent on alcohol or drugs.

Overcoming physical dependency isn’t quite as simple as just ceasing alcohol or drug consumption and immediately returning to the former state of health. When someone who has become physically dependent on alcohol or drugs abruptly ceases consumption, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Therefore, overcoming physical dependence would require some form of treatment to alleviate the discomfort that follows the cessation of alcohol or drug intake, and that’s the point of rapid detox. The term “rapid detox” is often used interchangeably with “the Waismann method” after one of the two physicians who developed the technique.

In a rapid detox, a patient is put under general anesthesia, during which time the body is forcibly detoxed using opiate blockers like naloxone and naltrexone. This pushes the person into full withdrawal, but due to being under anesthesia, there’s no discomfort.

Meanwhile, in addition to the opiate blockers, the patient is given muscle relaxants and other medications that will soothe any withdrawal symptoms that might linger beyond the point when the individual comes out of anesthesia. In many cases, the patient begins receiving Suboxone just before coming out of anesthesia and slowly ceases the Suboxone via a slow taper.

The process can take between 12 and 24 hours or up to 48 in some instances, and when the patient wakes he or she will have essentially bypassed the discomfort that’s typically associated with detoxification and withdrawal, and the detox process itself condensed into one to two days from a week or more.

What Are the Benefits of Rapid Detox?

The most obvious perk of rapid detox is that it allows a person to go through the detoxification significantly faster than a traditional detox program while affording them the opportunity to bypass any pain or discomfort one might otherwise expect. In effect, rapid detox is advertised as a process through which addicts are put under anesthesia and way up no longer physically dependent just 24 hours later. This would obviously appeal to many people, especially since one of the most common reasons that people object to recovery is due to fear of withdrawal and aversion to the detox process in general.

Bottom Line: Faster Doesn’t Mean Better

Although rapid detox would, by all appearances, seem to be a preferable and faster alternative to traditional detox, it’s not without its drawbacks. There have been a number of studies on the efficacy of rapid detox treatment and according to the evidence, people who receive rapid detox treatment don’t exhibit higher rates of success in recovery than those who receive traditional, medical detox treatment.

Additionally, there have been a number of incidents that have resulted in several deaths and numerous more near-deaths, which had been investigated and reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As such, while rapid detox presents an alternative to traditional detox, its questionable safety — not to mention the extremely high expense, frequently tens of thousands of dollars — will prevent it from becoming the standard for detoxification. Even though it’s faster, it doesn’t offer a better chance at recovery, and in fact, actually puts a person at much more risk than he or she would otherwise be.

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