Is Rapid Detox Dangerous? Addressing the Misconceptions

By The Fix staff 08/13/20

Many people are concerned about the safety of rapid detox. Here is what you should know.

Image: 
Doctor in consultation with off screen patient.
Photo 127010706 © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

One of the most significant barriers to getting opioid treatment can be the idea of going through withdrawal. Anyone who has experienced withdrawals from opioids — which can include nausea, shaking, pain, or other excruciating symptoms — will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing the suffering of detox again. Often, this contributes to people continuing to use drugs.

Rapid detox offers a safe and much more pleasant alternative to cold turkey withdrawal. The most premier rapid detox center in the world is Waismann Method®. Those lucky patients who medically qualify for this detoxification method can get through the detox phase, which requires only 2 – 3 days in an accredited hospital while under constant medical supervision. The process itself takes less than 2 hours under sedation, but the pre- and post- inpatient care are as important as rapid detox itself. Rather than going through days or weeks (in the case of methadone or suboxone) of uncomfortable and frequently severe symptoms, rapid detox allows you to quickly reverse your physical dependence on opioids so that you can focus on the social and emotional aspects of recovery.

Is Rapid Detox Safe?

Rapid detox is a safe procedure when the treating doctor has the necessary experience, the treatment is provided in an accredited hospital, and time is allowed for inpatient pre- and post- detox care. Although rapid detox can provide one of the highest detox success rates, it can also be dangerous when corners are cut.

The Waismann Method® team only performs the procedure in a private room of a full-service JCAHO accredited hospital. The performing physician is a quadruple board-certified medical doctor and has over 21 years of experience in anesthesia-assisted opioid detoxification. Patients are admitted one day before rapid detox begins, for a comprehensive medical evaluation. This pre-treatment evaluation helps the medical staff understand the patient's health needs while allowing adequate time to stabilize some of the primary organ functions, which dramatically minimizes the possibility of unexpected complications during detox. 

During rapid detox, the patient sleeps under sedation while the treating doctor uses FDA-approved medications, including naloxone, to clear receptors of opioids. The treatment allows patients to achieve complete freedom from opiate dependence, without most of the prolonged and painful withdrawal symptoms.

Is Rapid Detox Too Good to Be True?

Compared to weeks of grueling withdrawal symptoms, getting through an opioid detox in a few days while under the supervision of highly qualified medical staff may seem too good to be true. But it is true. Rapid detox is an effective and safe option for people suffering from opioid use disorder.

The conflicting attitudes toward rapid detox sometimes have to do with the culture of recovery. Some people are convinced that those who are dependent on substances deserve to go through the pain of detox - a lesson to be learned. Detox is often seen as a consequence of using opioids and as a necessary gateway to starting recovery.

But in most cases, this is simply not the case — you don't learn from being in discomfort and pain - just the opposite. Many people keep on using because they fear the suffering during withdrawal and the likelihood of not completing detox. The valor of suffering does not compensate for the risks of continuing using. Rapid detox allows you to be emotionally present while engaging in treatment to work on the issues that lead you to substance abuse.

What Happens After Rapid Detox? 

Removing all opioid drugs from the receptors is only the first step in complete detoxification. A clear understanding of the neurobiology of opioid dependence can be invaluable to the patients. It provides insight into patient behaviors, helps define realistic expectations, and clarifies treatment methods and goals.

It is crucial to understand that when rapid detoxification occurs, an intensive regulation period follows. The next few days after detox, the patient feels raw. When opioids are suddenly discontinued, the drug inhibitory impact is lost, leading to jitters, anxiety, sleeplessness, and gastrointestinal issues. These abnormalities can be resolved in a few days, provided immediate and effective actions are taken. In other words, around-the-clock professional support after rapid detox is not just important, but necessary for the patient's safety and success.

At Waismann Institute®, people who have undergone treatment receive immediate recovery support for a few days at Domus Retreat. This exclusive and private retreat provides highly-personalized recovery care, with stays ranging from 4 – 10 days. Additionally, this extra time in a supervised and supportive environment allows patients a few days with Naltrexone on board, which dramatically minimizes cravings and the possibility of a relapse.

At Domus Retreat, people receive the care and support needed to obtain strength and stabilize the nervous system, which has been directly affected by opioid abuse. Patients also receive individual psychotherapy and therapeutic services to make this transitional and fragile phase much more comfortable.

Are All Rapid Detox Centers the Same?

Of course not. Rapid detox is a medical procedure that needs to be provided by a specific doctor and in a particular setting. The way to choose the best rapid detox center is first by making sure the treating doctor is board-certified. Board certification indicates that the doctor is aware of the latest advancements in their specialty, demonstrating the desire to be at the top of their profession while delivering the highest quality of care to their patients. 

Secondly, you want to know that rapid detox occurs in a private ICU unit of a JCAHO accredited hospital. The reason for a private room is so that you will have the doctors' undivided attention during the procedure. Any way you look at it, patients should receive medical care individually--in what other medical procedure are you side-by-side with strangers? Sharing a room with a stranger is not acceptable for many reasons. A JCAHO accreditation means the facility offers the gold standard in medical care; it’s an internationally recognized symbol of quality.

Thirdly, other types of medically assisted opioid detoxification should be available for people who are not well-suited for rapid detox. A doctor should customize the treatment to the patient’s health needs. Having every patient, regardless of individual health condition, adapt to only one available treatment can be very dangerous.

Lastly, patients should be provided with adequate inpatient time pre- and post-anesthesia detox. Treating a patient without enough information or sending them home (or worse, to a hotel room) immediately after detox is a recipe for disaster.

Rapid detox is an effective medical treatment when performed, responsibly, by a skilled and experienced physician in a private hospital environment.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
the-fix-logo.png

The Fix staff consists of the editor-in-chief and publisher, a senior editor, an associate editor, an editorial coordinator, and several contributing editors and writers. Articles in Professional Voices, Ask an Expert, and similar sections are written by doctors, psychologists, clinicians, professors and other experts from universities, hospitals, government agencies and elsewhere. For contact and other info, please visit our About Us page.