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Rapid Drug Detox, Is It Too Good to Be True?
Handling drug addiction through rapid detox is appealing, but the facts are misleading
It is generally only a matter of time before a person addicted to heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin or other opiates decides they have to stop using the opiate or their life will be ruined. In most cases a person tries to withdraw “cold turkey” on their own. In an estimated 95% of these withdrawal attempts, the withdrawal was so painful that the person resumed taking the opiate. But they also became more and more desperate to find a solution. Then they hear about rapid drug detox.
Imagine the excitement felt by the addicted person when they read that they can “painlessly and effortlessly” do their detox in a few hours while they sleep. Imagine how appealing a solution is that promises no pain, no discomfort and a process that eliminates the opiates from their system.
Imagine how disappointed the addicted person is when they learn more about rapid drug detox, or actually go through the procedure, and find out the truth, it is too good to be true.
What Is rapid detox?
Rapid drug detox has come to mean a process where a person is put under general anesthesia and a drug like naltrexone is pumped into the person’s body for between three to six hours. The naltrexone forces the opiate withdrawal to begin. The body goes through all of the horrible withdrawal symptoms even though the person is unconscious. One doctor who observed a person undergoing the rapid drug detox procedure commented that the reason the person has to be strapped to the table is that the body was flopping around “like a fish out of water.” This process is very traumatic and creates stress on the body, in addition to the stress of just being under general anesthesia for that amount of time.
After I wake up, how do I feel?
Everyone is different, but normally you’re not going to feel very well. A person recovering from the rapid drug detox procedure will often have to stay in bed for 1-3 days before they are able to safely travel. For others, the recovery time is much longer.
After rapid detox, will I be free of my drug addiction?
No. Rapid drug detox may result in withdrawal from opiates, but it does nothing to address the reasons why the person was taking the opiates in the first place. Rapid detox is not the end of the addicted person’s journey to being free of their drug addiction. It is, at best, only the first step. The addicted person still needs to go to a drug rehab facility to get to the bottom of the problem.
In fact, even though the person has withdrawn from opiates, they are often on one or more medications to help deal with the stress and pain of the procedure.
What are some of the risks of rapid detox?
The risk involved in rapid drug detox depends on a number of factors, the skill of the doctors, the addicted person’s health, their reactions to anesthesia, and the stress of the withdrawal. For some, rapid drug detox may just be uncomfortable and disappointing, but, for others, it could be fatal.
In a lawsuit filed against Project Straight, a rapid detox center in Michigan, it was alleged that Dan Oppenheim, a 33-year-old husband and father of three with an addiction to prescription pain pills, died due to the negligence of the doctors performing the rapid drug detox procedure. According to his widow, “He just wanted to get better,” Susie Oppenheim said. “What they promised was like a dream come true.”
Because of the deaths of other rapid drug detox patients treated by the same doctors, the Attorney General of Michigan took actions to suspend the license of the two doctors who owned the rapid detox center.
Mr. Oppenheim’s death is not an isolated example. There have been many other deaths and complications alleged to have been caused by rapid drug detox procedures.
Has any independent research been done on rapid detox procedures?
Yes. A search on the Internet will guide you to several studies. One good example is Anesthesia-Assisted vs. Buprenorphine- or Clonidine-Assisted Heroin Detoxification and Naltrexone Induction: A Randomized Trial, a report produced by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and published in 2005 by the Journal of American Medicine. An abstract of this report is posted on the JAMA website.
“Anesthesia-assisted detoxification should have no significant role in the treatment of opioid dependence,” wrote Patrick G.O’Connor, M.D., M.P.H., in an editorial accompanying the JAMA report. “When detoxification is provided to patients, other approaches using clonidine, methadone, or buprenorphine are likely to be at least as effective as anesthesia-assisted detoxification and also are safer and far less costly.”
What do doctors say?
Dr. Vipul Patel, an internist at Henry Ford Hospital’s Maplegrove Rehab Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan said, “Opiate withdrawal can be very painful for the patient, and if you are relying on sedatives and anesthesia, there can also be a wide range of side effects. I’m not a believer in rapid detox.”
Quoted in the The Star.com, Dr. Frank Evans, president-elect of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and director of the health professionals program at Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, said, “Patients still suffer from significant pain, anxiety, agitation, depression, diarrhea, all of the symptoms of an opiate withdrawal, days to weeks after,” he said. “I have never heard of any patient being completely symptom-free after 24 hours.” Dr. Evans said that, in his opinion, rapid detox is “a waste of money.”
In 2005, the American Society of Addiction Medicine reversed its five-year policy supporting rapid drug detox, saying the procedure has “uncertain risks and benefits, and its use in clinical settings is not supportable.”
What is the safer alternative to rapid drug detox?
There is a safer and more comfortable alternative. At Novus we withdraw people from opiates. However, there are big differences between Novus and rapid drug detox centers:
- Novus patients are conscious and alert. Many patients can even continue handling business and family matters remotely.
- Novus uses medications as needed, and patients have the added benefit of nutritious meals and natural supplements to help build them up their body so they can recover quickly.
- After completing their Novus detox, most patients will feel better than they have felt in a long time.
- The average stay at Novus is between 5-7 days, often far less than the time required to recover from the effects of the “rapid detox.”
- When you leave Novus, you will not be on new medications to handle discomforts created by your detox.
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