Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Is Rapid Detox Safe and Effective?

Key Takeaways

What is Rapid Detox?

A rapid detox is a medical detox claiming to minimize withdrawal symptoms. It can be dangerous as it is associated with adverse outcomes, including death.

You’ll undergo general anesthesia for around 4-6 hours during a rapid detox. Medical professionals will then flush a dose of naltrexone into your system.

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug that treats alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opiate use disorder (OUD). However, medical professionals do not commonly use rapid detox for addiction treatment.3


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Are Rapid Detoxes Effective?

It’s unclear whether rapid detox is more effective than conventional withdrawal treatment for OUD.14 One study found that those treated with rapid detox had no better resistance against relapse.6,8

The study also showed that those who had a rapid detox had a higher rate of adverse effects and discomfort.8 Another study that claimed rapid detox was effective at detoxification also ended with the death of one person.7

However, its effectiveness isn’t the only problem. There are no peer-reviewed studies that support the safety of a rapid detox. It also doesn’t treat co-occurring mental health issues associated with substance abuse disorders.8,9

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Risks of Rapid Detox Methods

Rapid drug detox is not risk-exempt. Narcotic antagonists (naloxone and naltrexone) can force severe withdrawal symptoms, which can be counterproductive to your recovery.

Rapid detox is associated with severe adverse effects, including:

  • Pulmonary complications
  • Psychiatric complications of pre-existing mental illness, especially bipolar disorder
  • Fluid accumulation inside the lungs
  • Metabolic complications with diabetes
  • Problems with general anesthesia 
  • Death

Although rapid detox centers claim to help opioid addiction, the risks far outweigh the benefits. Rapid detox has several negative factors, including:

1. Higher Cost

Rapid detox costs between $10,000 to $15,000, and insurance does not cover these expenses. This kind of cost might increase stress and worsen addiction. 

2. Negative Impact on Mental Health

One study concluded that rapid detox could worsen mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder.8 Worsening mental illness can complicate addiction treatment. It can also make engaging in treatment difficult, especially during a crisis.

3. Risk of Death

From August to September 2012, a clinic in New York experienced two deaths following ultrarapid detox.9 These deaths were caused by sudden cardiac arrest and pulmonary edema following rapid detox. 

The New York State Department of Health and Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) issued a health alert warning healthcare providers about the adverse effects of rapid detox. They recommend using evidence-based treatment options due to the dangers of rapid detox.

4. No Follow-Up Care

Although rapid detox can help eliminate substances from the body, it is not a permanent solution. A rapid detox center might not provide additional substance abuse treatment, such as:

  • Follow-up care
  • Therapy
  • Counseling sessions
  • Support groups 

What is Opioid Detox?

Opiate detox is the first step in addiction treatment. On the other hand, rapid detox is an alternative to other medical detox methods for opioid abuse.

Opioid detox can lead to severe mental and physical symptoms, requiring medical supervision. Symptoms include:1,2

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Dysphoria
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever

Those with an opiate addiction might find rapid detox convenient. It claims to help people recover from withdrawal symptoms and start substance abuse treatment faster.

How Does Naltrexone Work?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptors in the brain. It eliminates the sensations of pleasure and euphoria associated with opioid drugs, eliminating cravings.4

Medical professionals can use naltrexone with other opioid addiction treatments. But they generally recommend that you don’t take the drug for a minimum of 7 to 10 days after your last use of opioids.

Rapid detox centers often use naltrexone to precipitate withdrawal. The idea is that once you wake up from anesthesia, you’ll have fewer withdrawal symptoms to manage.

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Alternative Treatment Options

There are various options available to help people achieve a sober life. People respond to treatments differently and some programs may cater to your needs better.

Alternative treatment options include:


A rapid detox is a medical detox method that claims to minimize withdrawal symptoms. It uses an opioid antagonist called naltrexone.

However, rapid detoxes are not commonly used and have questionable effectiveness. It may even risk more significant adverse effects or death.

There are numerous risks and cons associated with rapid detoxes, including a higher cost and no follow-up or aftercare. Fortunately, there are treatment options and programs that have been proven to be effective.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
14 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Darke et al.Yes, people can die from Opiate withdrawal.” NDARC.
  2. Shah, M.Opioid withdrawal.” StatPearls, 2021.
  3. Naltrexone.” SAMHSA.
  4. Theriot, J. Opioid antagonists.” StatPearls, 2021.
  5. What is naltrexone?” Psychiatric Research Institute.
  6. Study finds withdrawal no easier with Ultrarapid Opiate Detox.” NIDA Archives, 2006
  7. Gold et al. “Rapid opioid detoxification during general anesthesia: A review of 20 patients.” American Society of Anesthesiologists, 1999.
  8. Eric et al. Anesthesia-assisted vs. Buprenorphine- or clonidine-assisted heroin detoxification and naltrexone induction.” JAMA, 2005. 
  9. Deaths and severe adverse events associated with anesthesia-assisted rapid opioid detoxification – New York City, 2012.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013.
  10. Kleber, H.D. “Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: Detoxification and maintenance options.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 2007. 
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Medications for opioid overdose, withdrawal, & addiction.” National Institutes of Health, 2022. 
  12. Buprenorphine.” SAMHSA.
  13. What is methadone?” Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI).
  14. Rapid and Ultra-Rapid Detoxification in Adults with Opioid Addiction: A Review of Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness, Safety, and Guidelines.” Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, 2016.

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