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Does Rapid Detox Work?

Withdrawing from drugs and alcohol is usually the worst, most difficult stage of overcoming addiction. Withdrawal is often painful and unpleasant, and can trigger symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and bone aches, among countless more. Rapid detox programs exist to accelerate the drug and alcohol withdrawal process, and to prevent patients from experiencing any symptoms at all.

Medical detox programs last an average of seven to 14 days, while detox in the form of medication-assisted treatment can last for up to several weeks or months. But rapid detox programs only last between one and five days — allowing patients to get back on their feet, overcome addiction, and resume normal daily life more quickly than those in other detox programs.

Is it really possible to successfully overcome chemical dependency in as little as one day? Are rapid detox methods safe? Does rapid detox really work?

Here are answers to these questions, along with everything you need to know about how rapid detox programs work to treat drug and alcohol dependency.

What is a Rapid Detox Program?

Detox programs like rapid detox and medical detox help you on your pathway to recovery.

A rapid detox program accelerates the drug and alcohol withdrawal process so patients can overcome dependence on these substances in as little as one or two days, or as quickly as possible. With rapid detox, patients are provided general anesthesia so they can sleep during the procedure, and avoid any pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms. During a rapid detox, patients are administered intravenous medications that flush drugs and alcohol from the body.

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Patients who decide to undergo rapid detox can choose between a standard rapid detox and an ultra-rapid detox. A standard rapid detox lasts between two and five days, and is conducted over two or more treatment sessions. Ultra-rapid detox lasts only one day, and requires patients to be sedated for a longer period of time so the procedure can be conducted just once.

Rapid detox programs are usually offered in inpatient hospital settings so patients can be monitored closely by nurses and doctors until treatment is complete. An inpatient hospital setting reduces the risk for complications associated with anesthesia, detox, and withdrawal, and allows patients to recover surrounded by experienced medical staff. Following rapid detox, patients can resume their daily lives with work, school, and family without suffering physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms linked to chemical dependency.

Benefits of a Rapid Detox Program

The top benefits of undergoing rapid detox are being able to completely avoid withdrawal symptoms, and finish detox in as little as one day. Here’s a closer look at the benefits associated with rapid detox.

Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe, and can lead to serious health complications like dehydration, seizures, and heart failure. Withdrawal symptoms are often so painful and difficult to cope with that many people relapse and return to using drugs and alcohol just to avoid discomfort. But rapid detox programs allow patients to avoid any and all pain and discomfort associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Finish Detox Within a Few Days

Detox programs can last anywhere from several days to several months, depending on the treatment program. This can be difficult for those who must also manage careers and families while undergoing treatment, or who do not feel comfortable or positive about long-term treatments. Rapid and ultra-rapid detox programs are faster than any other detox program, and often last no more than five days.

Rapid detox programs take less than five days to complete

Resume Normal Life More Quickly

Rapid detox programs allow patients to resume their normal daily lives more quickly than that allowed by other detox programs. Instead of slowly detoxing over a long period of time, or spending several weeks at an inpatient rehab facility, patients can get back to their jobs and to taking care of their families in under a week. Rapid detox benefits those who are highly motivated to recover from substance use disorders, and who are responsible for managing careers, raising families, and furthering their schooling and education.

Experience a Faster Recovery from Addiction in Full

Rapid detox allows patients to achieve immediate improved health and mental clarity — both of which are vital for overcoming addiction psychologically. Patients who undergo rapid detox can immediately seek counseling and other treatments that help them identify the reasons they started using drugs and alcohol in the first place. Rapid detox accelerates the first stage of addiction treatment so patients can continue working toward overcoming their substance use disorders using additional therapies.

Drawbacks of a Rapid Detox Program

While rapid detox programs do offer several benefits, this detox method isn’t ideal for everyone. Rapid detox programs do offer some drawbacks, and should be carefully considered before chosen as part of addiction treatment. Here are common drawbacks associated with rapid detox.

Possible Complications Related to Anesthesia

General anesthesia is risky in any medical setting, regardless of whether a person is undergoing surgery or being treated for chemical dependence. Side effects of general anesthesia can last up to 24 hours following the procedure, and may include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. General anesthesia can also lead to serious health complications including stroke, brain damage, heart attack, and death.

Unpredictable Length and Severity of Withdrawal

With rapid detox, doctors are often unable to predict the intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms until the procedure is already well underway. Withdrawal symptoms can last longer or be more severe than predicted — causing discomfort for patients and complicating the treatment timeline for doctors. Plus, since patients are sedated and unconscious during a rapid detox, they are unable to provide feedback to medical staff about their symptoms.

Doesn’t Treat Psychological Causes of Addiction

Rapid detox programs may be effective at treating the physical and physiological aspects of addiction, but do not address psychological causes. After detox, patients often need behavioral therapies to identify and overcome root causes of addiction, and to avoid relapse in the years ahead. Without detox aftercare, patients are at greater risk for relapsing and resuming alcohol and drug use.

Does Rapid Detox Work?

Rapid detox programs have been available to treat drug and alcohol dependence since the 1980s. Since then, rapid detox treatments have improved and increased in popularity, and are now widely used to treat opioid dependence. Those suffering dependence on heroin and painkillers can undergo rapid opiate detox under anesthesia, and avoid severe withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with opioid use disorders.

A study conducted in 2006 found that when comparing rapid detox to other detox programs, rapid detox did not necessarily offer better outcomes than other programs. Many of the patients involved in the study demonstrated that they were able to successfully withdraw from opioids and achieve sobriety regardless of the detox method being used. The study authors pointed out that for some patients, rapid detox performed under general anesthesia may be highly risky, and increase the risk for metabolic syndrome, fluid accumulation in the lungs, and worsened bipolar disorder.

As one of many efforts to improve the United States opioid crisis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently held a meeting to discuss ways to advance the science of rapid opioid detoxification. Many times, opioid withdrawal symptoms are severe to the point people avoid seeking treatment, or relapse while in recovery. But making improvements to rapid opioid detox treatments could eliminate withdrawal symptoms serving as a barrier to addiction treatment, and lower the nation’s opioid overdose death toll.

So, does rapid detox work? The answer is yes, but only for certain individuals. Here’s how to tell whether rapid detox would work best for you.

You’ve Already Tried Other Detox Programs

Rapid detox may be ideal if you’ve already tried at-home detox, medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, and or another detox program without success. Rapid detox is the fastest way to overcome physical dependence on any drug or substance.

You’re in Relatively Good Physical Health

Rapid detox accelerates the withdrawal process — meaning you must have a strong immune system and be in good physical health to withstand the procedure and face minimal complications. Rapid detox is not often recommended for those who have a history of heart problems or adverse reactions to anesthesia, or those at risk for other complications while under sedation.

You’re Detoxing from Dangerous Substances

Opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines are often associated with the most severe withdrawal symptoms and related complications. For instance, withdrawing from alcohol can cause delirium tremens — a severe form of withdrawal that can lead to seizures, heart problems, and hallucinations. Rapid detox helps patients avoid these symptoms so they face a greater recovery outcome.

If rapid detox seems far too risky a procedure for you or your loved one, there are many other detox methods that are just as effective, and that may offer fewer risks and complications.

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Is an Inpatient Medical Detox Safer than Rapid Detox?

If you’re on the fence about whether rapid detox is ideal and safe for you or your loved one, consider an inpatient medical detox instead. An inpatient medical detox usually lasts between seven and 14 days, and allows patients to withdraw from drugs and alcohol at their own natural pace under close medical supervision. Many times, medical detox involves the use of medications that relieve certain withdrawal symptoms to make recovery more comfortable.

Another benefit to choosing inpatient medical detox is having access to other therapies that enhance your recovery from addiction as a whole. Individual and group counseling, 12-step support group therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are examples of therapies commonly offered at many inpatient detox centers. After completing medical detox, patients can immediately start these therapies to identify triggers, and learn the skills needed to stay sober for life.

Inpatient medical detox programs also offer patients a safe, controlled medical environment away from drugs, alcohol, and negative people influencing their substance use disorders. Patients can wake up every day knowing they’re in a safe place, and are guided through establishing new healthy daily routines they can stick to after completing their treatment programs. Since anesthesia is not used as part of medical detox programs, patients can recover from substance use disorders with a far lower risk for serious health complications.

An Aftercare Detox Program is Highly Recommended

Detox is just the first stage of addiction treatment, and is most effective when combined with other therapies. Patients who undergo rapid detox programs are strongly advised to join aftercare programs that help them stay sober in the months and years following detox.

In aftercare detox programs, patients learn how to identify negative thoughts and behaviors that may have kept them caught up in the cycle of addiction. Patients also learn the skills needed to overcome those tendencies and cope in the real world without relying on drugs and alcohol. For instance, a patient who once turned to alcohol to cope with stress at work can learn how to use exercise and deep breathing to relieve stress naturally rather than turn to drinking.

Aftercare detox programs also offer ongoing treatment for co-occurring disorders — mental health disorders or behavioral addictions that exist alongside substance use disorders. Many times, co-occurring disorders are the root cause of a person’s substance use disorder. For example, a person who suffers from PTSD or depression may use drugs and alcohol to mask feelings of despair and helplessness, and related symptoms.

If you or someone you love needs help finding a drug or alcohol detox center, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) . Our caring drug abuse counselors will help you find rapid detox centers or other detox centers ready to help you become healthier and achieve lifelong sobriety from drugs and alcohol.

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