Is rapid opiate detox safe?
Opiate detox and withdrawal
In general, withdrawal from opiates is unpleasant, uncomfortable and temporarily painful. But however difficult withdrawal is, it is NOT life-threatening, and symptoms of opiate withdrawal gradually decrease over time. If you’re wondering if you’ve started withdrawal, we review the symptoms of opiate withdrawal now. But it’s no wonder people are interested in alternative ways to withdrawal from opiate drugs. Below, you’ll find a brief review of ultra-rapid opiate detoxification (a.k.a. UROD) and its safety so that you can evaluate the option before you “go under”. And, as always, we welcome your questions and comments.
What is rapid opiate detox?
A relatively new practice of opiate detox withdrawal called “rapid opiate detox” is gaining some popularity. The idea was developed about 20 years ago by detox specialists who hope to help ease the discomfort of withdrawal and decrease the overall time spent in detox.
Basically, the widely advertised treatments for opiate withdrawal called “detox under anesthesia” or “rapid opiate detox” involve placing you under anesthesia and injecting large doses of opiate-blocking drugs. The idea is that the opiate blockers will speed up the return to normal opioid system function. During the procedure, doctors administer a general anesthetic for sedation and then a medicines like naltrexone to trigger symptoms of withdrawal. 4-6 hours you wake up … but detox has just started. So does rapid opiate detox actually work?
Does rapid detox work?
Doctors continue to use techniques developed during rapid detox because, in a sense, the technique does work to move withdrawal and detox along. Plus, treatment outcomes are similar to other types of detox protocols (buprenorphine or clonidine assisted detox). But some of the claims that detox centers make are pure advertising, and have not been proven in clinical trials. In fact, the risks and the costs of rapid opiate detox are real. And as much as you might like the idea of sleeping through withdrawal, you need to know the facts about this procedure. We present them here.
1. Rapid opiate detox does not decrease time in detox.
There is no evidence that ultra-rapid opiate detoxification programs actually reduce the time you spend in withdrawal.
2. Rapid opiate detox does not decrease intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, rapid detox may reduce the intensity of symptoms during general anesthesia and the immediate recovery period. But in most cases, once awakened from anesthesia, people who choose ultra rapid detox report symptoms of discomfort comparable to those of more conventional detox procedures using buprenorphine or clonidine assisted detox.
3. Rapid opiate detox is medically risky.
There have been several deaths associated with detox under anesthesia, particularly when performed outside a hospital. Rapid detox can provoke unconsciousness, transient confusion, or depressive mood. Or even worse. Pulmonary, psychiatric complications and metabolic complications from diabetes, all of which require hospitalization are possible. Of particular concern is vomiting during anesthesia (opiate withdrawal produces vomiting). Because of the significant increase in death risk, many specialists think the risks of rapid opiate detox outweigh the potential (and unproven) benefits.
No reason for rapid opiate detox
In sum, experts agree that there is no compelling reason for using general anesthesia to treat opiate dependence, especially as it presents particular safety concerns. Instead, when you are ready to detox from opiates, talk to your doctor first about how to slowly stop prescription medicine or how to taper doses gradually to prevent signs and symptoms of withdrawal. Then, you can check in to a medically supervised detox center to get opiates out of your system.