Ultra Rapid Detox: Is Pain-Free Detox Possible?

A relatively recent alternative to a conventional medical detox, ultra rapid detox for opiate addiction promises a pain-free withdrawal experience.

During ultra rapid detox, patients are placed under anesthesia, and administered a cocktail of medications that accelerate and intensify the withdrawal process. Because patients sleep through the procedure, they do not feel the intensified symptoms of withdrawal. Ultra rapid opiate detox clinics promise a relatively painless withdrawal in as little as a couple of days.

Yet despite the attractive sounding claims from those offering the expensive procedure, ultra rapid opiate detox remains a controversial topic, and has not received widespread recommendations from medial professionals.

The Drawbacks of Ultra Rapid Opiate Detox

The fear of pain is a potent motivator, and so a treatment that promises a pain-free detox sounds very tempting. But the technique remains experimental, it is not considered to be an evidence-based approach, and it is not covered by most medical insurance plans.

A 2005 study that was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that ultra rapid detox patients endured considerable discomfort during the process. Also,  ultra rapid detox poses medical risks for a procedure that has proved to work less effectively than more conventional methods in helping patients achieve long-term recovery from opiate addiction.

The study's author, Dr. Eric Collins of Columbia University, said that the only way someone could honestly call ultra rapid opiate detox painless was if they were only talking about the time the patient is under general anesthesia.

During the JAMA trial study, three out of the 35 people who underwent ultra rapid detox for opiate addiction developed life-threatening complications.

The drawbacks of ultra rapid detox for opiate addiction include the following:

  • A serious risk of medical complications.
  • The risk of death while under anesthesia.
  • Pain after waking up from anesthesia.
  • High cost.
  • No continuing treatment.

The accelerated and intensified withdrawal symptoms of ultra rapid detox for opiate addiction strain the body and can cause medical complications, and the procedure has been linked to several deaths. Experts counsel that individuals who choose to undergo anesthesia as a part of an ultra rapid opiate detox should do so in a facility that equipped for life saving interventions, such as intubation and mechanical respiration.

The cost for a couple of days of ultra rapid detox treatment can equal the cost of a month or more in conventional residential care. Also, after a two-day ultra rapid opiate detox experience, patients will have learned very little about how to achieve long-term recovery from their opiate addiction.

The long-term success rates of people who participate in medication managed treatments for opiate addictions, such as methadone or Suboxone, are much higher that for individuals who undergo ultra rapid detox.

Should You Undergo Ultra Rapid Detox?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine advises ultra rapid detox only if it is combined with continuing counseling, if it is performed by trained medical staff with access to lifesaving equipment, and if patients have been made aware of the risks and benefits of the procedure as compared with the risks and benefits of alternative methods.

The idea of a pain-free detox under anesthesia sounds tempting, but the reality is somewhat different. The procedure will be uncomfortable, dangerous, and costly -- and it won't work as well as alternative and more conventional methods.

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