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Updated on September 26, 2022
4 min read

Rapid Detox: How It Works and Severe Risks

What is Rapid Detox?

Rapid detox is a form of medical detox that claims to minimize withdrawal symptoms. However, there are significant adverse reactions associated with rapid detox, and it is not a generally accepted and commonly used form of treatment.

What is Opioid Detox?

Rapid detox is an alternative to other medical detox methods for opioid abuse. 

Opioid detox can lead to severe mental and physical symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Dysphoria1
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever

Severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea from untreated opioid detox can be fatal. Medical supervision is crucial.2

Opiate detox is the first step in addiction treatment. Those with opiate addiction might find rapid detox convenient since it claims to help people recover from withdrawal symptoms and start substance abuse treatment faster. 

During rapid opiate detox, a person undergoes general anesthesia for around 4 to 6 hours. A healthcare provider will then administer a dose of naltrexone. Naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug that has been shown to help treat both alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opiate use disorder (OUD). 3  

Rapid opiate detox under general anesthesia is not a common procedure. It has been associated with adverse outcomes, including death. 

How Does Naltrexone Work?

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, or opiate blocker. Opioid antagonists block opioid receptors in the brain. This eliminates the sensations of pleasure and euphoria that are associated with opioid drugs.4 By blocking these opioid receptors, naltrexone eliminates opioid cravings. 

Naltrexone reduces cravings and can be used in conjunction with other opioid addiction treatments. But it is generally recommended that users do not take the drug for a minimum of 7 to 10 days after their last use of opioid drugs.

Rapid detox centers often use naltrexone to precipitate withdrawal. The idea is that once someone awakens from anesthesia, they will have fewer withdrawal symptoms to manage during the rest of their detox. 

Addicts who are given narcotic antagonists (lik naloxone and naltrexone) are forced into severe withdrawal symptoms, which is not conducive to their ongoing cooperation.

Are You Thinking About Detoxing?

Medically-assisted detox is the safest way to do it. Call now, an Addiction Specialist can help:

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Does Rapid Detox Work?

During rapid detox, a patient is rendered completely unconscious using general anesthesia, and then naltrexone flushes opioids from the system. However, studies have shown that withdrawal is no less painful with ultrarapid opiate detox than with traditional detox forms.

Ultra rapid detox is not a completely safe detox method. One study that claimed rapid detox was effective at detoxification also ended with the death of one person.7 The study also stated that moderate withdrawal symptoms were to be expected 3 to 4 days after the first naltrexone dose.

Risks of Rapid Detox Methods

People who want to recover from drug abuse and begin addiction treatment should consider the risks involved. 

Rapid drug detox is not risk-exempt. It has been associated with serious 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

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Why We Don’t Recommend Rapid Detoxes

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

Higher Cost

Insurance does not cover rapid detox costs. The cost of rapid detox ranges between $10,000 to $15,000. This high cost might increase stress or worsen addiction. 

Negative Impact on Mental Health

One study concluded that rapid detox can worsen certain 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.

Risk of Death

From August to September 2012, a clinic in New York experienced 2 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.

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 

Alternative Treatment Options

There are various options available to help people achieve a sober life:

Inpatient Medical Detox 

Inpatient medical detox involves 24/7 medical monitoring. Medical detox is beneficial for those with severe opioid dependence.

Medical staff will monitor vital signs, administer medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, and ensure complications do not arise. Symptoms should ease after 5 days of medical detox treatment. 10

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Depending on the severity of drug abuse, residents can undergo medication-assisted treatment during their inpatient stay or in an outpatient setting. There are several medications that can help reduce cravings and can reduce the risk of relapse.11 These include:

  • Naltrexone, which is available in a monthly vivitrol injection. It blocks the euphoric effects of opiates and may reduce cravings in some people.
  • Buprenorphine, which diminishes cravings and increases safety in case of overdose.12
  • Lofexidine, which reduces withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone, which reduces pain from withdrawal and blocks the sensations of euphoria.13

Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
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Updated on September 26, 2022
13 sources cited
Updated on September 26, 2022
  1. S. D. (n.d.). Yes, people can die from Opiate withdrawal. NDARC.
  2. Shah, M. (2021, October 11). Opioid withdrawal. StatPearls.
  3. Naltrexone. SAMHSA. (n.d.). 
  4. Theriot, J. (2021, July 23). Opioid antagonists. StatPearls.
  5. What is naltrexone? Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI). (n.d.).
  6. Study finds withdrawal no easier with Ultrarapid Opiate Detox. NIDA Archives. (2006, October 1). 
  7. Gold, C. G., Cullen, D. J., Gonzales, S., Houtmeyers, D., & Dwyer, M. J. (1999, December 1). Rapid opioid detoxification during general anesthesia : A review of 20 patients. American Society of Anesthesiologists. 
  8. Eric D. Collins, M. D. (2005, August 24). Anesthesia-assisted vs Buprenorphine- or clonidine-assisted heroin detoxification and naltrexone induction. JAMA. 
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, September 27). Deaths and severe adverse events associated with anesthesia-assisted rapid opioid detoxification - New York City, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  10. Kleber, H. D. . Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: Detoxification and maintenance options. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. 
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, February 1). Medications for opioid overdose, withdrawal, & addiction. National Institutes of Health. 
  12. Buprenorphine. SAMHSA. (n.d.).
  13. What is methadone? Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI). (n.d.).

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