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Quick and painless opiate detox...what's the catch?

Painless Rapid Opiate Detox

A relatively new and still very controversial form of opiate detox, rapid opiate detox, promises complete withdrawal from all opiates within a day, and since the process is done under anesthesia, patients experience no pain.

Why go through painful withdrawal?

And when considering the real and prolonged pains of a conventional detox off of opiate type drugs (heroin, oxy, vicodin…) the promises made by rapid detox advocates sound quite inviting, and if detox pains can be avoided, why should anyone endure days of agony as in a conventional and painful withdrawal?

Additionally the relapse rates as reported are quite impressive, and although the process is expensive ($15 000 - $20 000) the overall cost is not greater than that for many private drug rehabs.

Unfortunately, what sounds too good to be true often is, and critics of rapid opiate detox point to several serious problems with the safety and efficacy of the treatment.

How does rapid opiate detox work?

Patients undergoing rapid opiate detox are placed under anesthesia for anywhere from 4 to 48 hours, and during this time they are pumped full of medications that accelerate the detoxification process, primarily the drug nalexone.

Were patients conscious for this pharmaceutically accelerated period of detox the agony would be unbearable, but since they remain sedated they awake at the end of the procedure opiate free, spared the worst of the pains of detox, and with no memory of any of it.

Rapid opiate detox practitioners report astonishing success rates, and although they will often recommend pharmaceutical aftercare with naltrexone (a drug used to prevent opiate and alcohol relapse) no other therapy or treatments are included in the price. Addicts are reported cured of their addictions in a weekend, and can resume life on Monday free from an addiction to drugs.

Because the fear of the intense pains of detox keeps many addicts using and abusing for years, advocates of the program argue that in addition to its effectiveness, it also increases compliance rates for treatment, and has great potential to better our societal problem with opiate addiction (currently there are an estimated 1 million heroin addicts, and 6 or more million pain pill addicts).

What are the problems with rapid opiate detox?

Although we all wish it were so, there are no magic bullet cures for addiction and none on the horizon either, and most addiction professionals dismiss rapid opiate detox as unsafe, costly and ineffective; and recommend conventional forms of detox and treatment as far preferable alternatives.

Health risks

A number of people have died within days of the procedure, and doctors have questioned the overall safety of a procedure that greatly taxes the body as it intensified the symptoms of withdrawal. Although you do not consciously feel the pains of withdrawal, your body does endure them, and endures a greatly accelerated version of an already difficult period.

Both the medications used and the symptoms of the detox are very hard on the body, and since many opiate addicts enter into detox in somewhat ill health, the risks of the procedure are great.


Additionally, although rapid opiate detox clinics report astonishing success and abstinence rates (as high as 100%) there has been little independent confirmation of these reports, and those few studies that have looked at relapse rates closely have found long term abstinence rates very low.

Detox alone is not therapy, and although they may advertise a cure, the disease of addiction cannot be cured and only managed. Detox is but the first step to sobriety, and detox without treatment has never proven very effective.

There are reasons why the initial abuse and addiction occurred, and unless recovering addicts can understand and come to terms with those things in life which created the first addiction, a second is sure to soon follow. Additionally, although with the end of detox so to do the worst of the pains end, temptation and cravings do not, and although you no longer feel the pains of withdrawal, a hunger for drugs remains.

Without offering any therapy or other forms of treatment, the likelihood of ultimate success after a rapid opiate detox is very low.


The costs of the procedure preclude access to those unable to foot the bill, and no insurance carrier will offset any of the costs of this still controversial form of treatment. While those in a position to pay may be attracted to the minimal disruption of the procedure, since without aftercare therapy and treatment the risks to relapse are so high, it is very likely wasted money.

Believe those not in a position to profit

The procedure remains very controversial, and advocates for and against rapid opiate detox are at loggerheads over the technique. Very tellingly though, those arguing for the procedure are almost all in a position to profit from its usage, and those against are independent scientists with no financial stake one way or the other.

Addiction to any form of opiates demands that a price be paid. Although anyone would wish to avoid days of agony; the risks to heath, the expense of the procedure, and the questionable efficacy of detox without therapy should all deter anyone from a serious consideration of rapid opiate detox.

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Page last updated Jan 17, 2018

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