Learn About Rapid Detox

05 Mar Learn About Rapid Detox

What is Rapid Detox?

“Rapid” or “ultra-rapid” detox is a form of detoxification that is done under anesthesia and is sometimes referred to as “anesthesia-assisted” detox. Typically drug and alcohol detox is done in an inpatient facility where the acute phase of withdrawal can last between 5-10 days. Comparatively, rapid detox allows the patient to experience the painful withdrawal symptoms within a few short hours and while unconscious under general anesthesia. Rapid detox advocates say that condensing the withdrawal process makes it easier on the patient and therefore more effective with fewer incidences of relapse.  Earlier use of rapid detox was extremely controversial following the deaths of 7 opiate addicts undergoing this procedure in the late 90’s. Today the Waisman Method of rapid detox has gained popularity across the country.

Does it work for any drug?

Rapid detox is simply a process of detoxification that is sped up using anesthesia and medications while under anesthesia. It can be used for a variety of drugs but is most typically performed to help individuals detox from heavy opiate abuse and addiction. Opiates are all prescription painkillers (Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, Dilaudid, Darvocet, OxyContin, opium, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone) and other drugs such as heroin and methadone.

How is it done?

Rapid detox is done by putting the patient under general anesthesia for a few hours. Using medications such as naltrexone (administered intravenously), withdrawal symptoms are induced immediately so that the detox and withdrawal process can begin while the addict is unconscious. Other medications that help decrease withdrawal symptoms such as anti-nausea medications and muscle relaxants are also administered intravenously to ease discomfort and keep patients safe.

What typically is done over a 5-day period can be done within hours with rapid detox. The claim that rapid detox professionals make is that because withdrawal symptoms are experienced quickly and under anesthesia this process is safe and effective. It must be noted that this method of detox is highly controversial and clinical research has yet to support any such claims.

Does Rapid Detox work?

questionAdvocates of rapid detox say it is effective and safe but to date there has been no evidence-based research to show that this method is more effective than traditional inpatient detox protocols. On the contrary there is a famous study from 2005 that shows the ineffectiveness of rapid detox. Those who have had success with this type of detox feel that:

  • Patients can be physically detoxed within hours instead of days
  • Patients are detoxed under anesthesia so they feel no pain from withdrawal symptoms
  • This is a good option for addicts who’ve tried several inpatient and outpatient detoxes

Several research studies have been conducted to test whether or not rapid detox is effective. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a research study by Eric D. Collins, MD; Herbert D. Kleber, MD; Robert A. Whittington, MD; & Nicole E. Heitler, MA., entitled: A randomized trial comparing anesthesia-assisted vs. buprenorphine- or clonidine-assisted heroin detoxification.

The conclusion of this study states: “These data do not support the use of general anesthesia for heroin detoxification and rapid opioid antagonist induction.”

A summary of the research findings shows:

  • Even after anesthesia patients experienced physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms
  • Almost 10% of patients experienced life threatening complications despite all safety measures
  • 80% of patients dropped out of follow-up treatment
  • Rapid Detox was NOT pain-free as many programs promise
  • Severity of withdrawal symptoms were the same as for those in conventional detox protocols

Patients who complete rapid detox are often disappointed and frustrated to find that this is not a magical detox experience and that the pain of withdrawal is imminent when the anesthesia effects wear off. Such individuals undergo this procedure without being fully informed and feel angry when they realize they don’t feel 100% “normal” within a few hours. It is important to have realistic expectations before undergoing rapid detox. Others swear by this rapid detox approach known as the Waisman Method. (Watch Waisman YouTube video).

Is it safe?

Again, advocates of rapid detox claim this method is 100% safe. However any procedure that requires anesthesia has serious risks involved. Anesthesia is usually the most dangerous part of any medical or surgical procedure and requires that anesthesia be administered by individuals who are skilled and trained to do just that. A lower dose would be ineffective and the patient would feel excruciating pain while a higher dose could kill you. Anesthesiology is an exact science that requires training and expertise and should only be done by a licensed anesthesiologist.

Anesthetizing agents are administered using a breathing mask or a tube placed into the windpipe (trachea) and because the risks with anesthesia are known to be high patients are required to sign a liability waiver should anything happen.

The University Medical Center (Lubbock, Texas) has an excerpt from a hospital waiver for patient consent for anesthesia care: Possible risks include respiratory problems, drug reaction, paralysis, brain damage or even death. Other risks and hazards which may result from the use of general anesthetics range from minor discomfort to injury to vocal cords, teeth or eyes. Other risks include permanent organ damage, including the brain, heart or other major organs and memory dysfunction/memory loss. Awareness (being awake) during your surgery is a rare complication (University Medical Center, Lubbock Texas).

Where can I get it done?

You can get this process done in many clinics and doctors’ offices that specialize in this process. This process should ideally be done in a hospital setting since it requires anesthesia and therefore a high level of risk. Medical complications can arise anytime a person is anesthetized which is why 24/7 trained medical staff should be available. In some cases clinics may require an overnight stay for monitoring purposes. If money is no object then there are medical professionals who can come to your home and detox you within hours. Rapid detox is not just for celebrities any more.

What does it cost?

Rapid Detox or anesthesia-assisted detox is very expensive because you are paying for the ‘convenience’ of being detoxed within hours. The cost can run between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on what you require and how much professional time you need. Of course if you have a detox professional come to your home you will likely pay much more money. Due to the large expense rapid detox is usually out of most people’s budget. Proponents of rapid detox say that most people seeking recovery will pay close to the same amount of money for a 5-7 day inpatient detox stay.

Will my insurance cover Rapid Detox?

Whether insurance will cover rapid detox depends on your insurance coverage, how your policy is written, where the detox is performed, and above all whether the physician performing the procedure accepts insurance. Most rapid detox providers do not accept insurance.

Sources:

Eric D. Collins, MD; Herbert D. Kleber, MD; Robert A. Whittington, MD; Nicole E. Heitler, MA (2005). Clonidine-Assisted Heroin Detoxification and Naltrexone Induction: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2005;294 (8):903-913. doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.903.

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