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Rapid Detox vs. Conventional Detox


Detox has been used for years as the first stage of drug abuse treatment programs. By removing the drug’s toxins from the body, the patient is able to begin the long process of recovery. In recent years, there has been advances in the processes of detox. There is now alternatives to conventional detox, including rapid detox. But, what really makes these two methods different? To understand this, it is necessary to know what conventional and rapid detox are, including their benefits and drawbacks.

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Conventional Detox

Rapid Detox

Rapid detox gets you back into society faster, but not without risks.

Conventional detox programs involve removing the toxins from opiate abuse from a person’s body. This is typically accomplished beginning in an inpatient facility before continuing through outpatient treatment and monitoring, and with the help of medications to manage withdrawal effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these medications are methadone and buprenorphine. Some of the benefits of conventional detox include:

  • a proven track record of success
  • a dramatic lessening of withdrawal symptoms through behavioral and medical management
  • decreased rates of relapse among participants who complete it, as part of a long-term treatment program.

All of these benefits make conventional detox useful, but it does have some drawbacks. Some of these are:

  • very long treatment times (sometimes many months long)
  • an intimidation factor because of these treatment times
  • relatively high dropout rates
  • the possibility of addiction to maintenance medications

While these drawbacks seem pretty bad, it is important to remember that people experience things differently, and no one treatment program is the same for everyone.

How Rapid Detox is Different

Rapid detox operates on the same basic principal as conventional detox, but speeds the process up from weeks or months, to days. This involves placing the patient under anesthesia, and then using a combination of medications, including clonidine and naltrexone, to remove opiates from the opioid receptors in the brain, and flush them out of the system. The benefits of rapid detox are:

  • greatly reduced detox time
  • little to no withdrawal symptoms because of the anesthesia
  • quicker transition to other stages of treatment

All of these benefits make rapid detox very attractive, but there are some drawbacks that need to be known, as well. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, this includes:

  • very little research into the side effects of this process
  • mixed results in the lessening of withdrawal symptoms
  • there is no indication that rapid detox is any more or less effective than traditional detox
  • rapid detox should not be administered unless it is part of an intensive and long-term treatment protocol
  • some patients have died due to complications during rapid detox

These drawbacks should give anyone considering rapid detox pause, and they should be sure that they fully understand the risks involved before selecting it as part of their treatment program.

Why it Matters

Detoxifying from drugs is a dangerous and harrowing ordeal under the best of circumstances. Add to this the fact that no one treatment is right for everyone, and it presents a difficult maze to unravel, in order to determine what method will work best in any given situation. If you are considering detox from drugs, it is important that you consult with a doctor, in order to determine the best course of action. Most important, however, is to get the help you need to begin your recovery. For more information about rapid detox or conventional detox call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  2. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2005). Public Policy Statement
    On Rapid and Ultra Rapid Opioid Detoxification.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Deaths and Severe Adverse Events Associated with Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Opioid Detoxification — New York City, 2012.
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