Dangers of Rapid Detox

When someone is struggling with addiction to drugs and have decided it’s time to get on the road to recovery, they may be tempted to jump start the process by going through rapid detox. Rapid drug detox — a process that uses a combination of sedation and medication to quickly remove opioid drugs and other toxins from the body — may sound appealing, but it carries many potentially dangerous risks.

Detox vs. Withdrawal Management

woman experiencing rapid detox symptomsThe development of physician-assisted withdrawal management programs has resulted in the ability of professional treatment programs to reduce relapse rates during the withdrawal process and to safeguard individuals in the early stages of recovery from any potentially dangerous issues associated with withdrawal. However, there are a number of approaches to managing withdrawal symptoms that are controversial and even dangerous, such as “rapid detox.”

There is a difference between the terms detox (detoxification) and withdrawal management. The detoxification process is actually an ongoing physically based process that occurs in everyone. Waste products and toxins are eliminated from the body mainly through the liver, and even individuals actively using alcohol or drugs are constantly undergoing the process of “detox.”

Withdrawal management, also referred to as medical detoxification, is generally considered the first step in the recovery process. Medical detox helps individuals stop using drugs or alcohol safely. By managing withdrawal symptoms and monitoring individuals in this phase of the recovery process, to ensure their comfort and safety, the groundwork is laid to move to the next phases of addiction treatment.

What Is Rapid Detox?

The use of “quick fix” attempts to recover from substance use disorder is not new. There are hundreds of different types of “self-detox” or other programs listed online, in books, and via a number of treatment programs that are reported to have miraculous effects in reducing the hardships associated with recovery from a substance use disorder. However, these programs typically are not supported by empirical evidence, and there may be dangers associated with a number of them.

Often termed ultra-rapid detox, rapid detoxification, or rapid detox is actually an accelerated form of withdrawal management. Rapid detox programs are most often targeted at individuals who have opioid use disorders. The procedure is delivered while the patient is under anesthesia and the process has a number of features that distinguish it from traditional withdrawal management programs.

  • The patient undergoes the procedure in an intensive care unit of a hospital or as an inpatient in a hospital or clinic.
  • General anesthesia is administered to the individual under the supervision of a physician and medical staff.
  • When the person is anesthetized, they are administered opioid blockers like naloxone, which are drugs that reverse the symptoms of opioid drugs by attaching to the receptor sites in the brain. Other drugs, such as medications to address nausea, muscle tension, and other withdrawal symptoms, are also administered.
  • The administration of naloxone helps to eliminate any opioid drugs in the central nervous system and occupies the receptor sites, such that withdrawal management process can be maintained.
  • When the individual recovers from anesthesia, they are observed to make sure that there are no complications and can be released from the clinic or hospital shortly afterward if there are no issues.

Risks Associated with Rapid Detox Programs

There are a number of concerns associated with use of the rapid detox procedure.

  • Rapid detox programs do not address aftercare issues. Once the patient leaves the facility, they are on their own.
  • Statements by national and international organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that the rapid detox procedure is associated with a number of potential dangers. Individuals who undertake this procedure are at risk for developing serious issues, such as pneumonia, heart attack, serious metabolic problems, pulmonary edema, flulike symptom, and dehydration.
  • There are a relatively high number of fatalities associated with the use of rapid detox procedures, indicating that these programs are not safe.
  • Because the procedure requires the use of an intensive care unit and ICU staff, it is extremely expensive compared to traditional withdrawal management programs. Many insurance companies will not pay for the rapid detox procedure because it has not shown to be advantageous over traditional withdrawal management, and there are a number of dangers associated with using these techniques.

The withdrawal process for some drugs, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol, can be potentially fatal due to the development of seizures.  For other drugs of abuse, such as opiates and stimulants, withdrawal can lead to issues with judgment, depression, and other effects that can be potentially dangerous. Because there are a number of dangers associated with withdrawal, anyone who is attempting to discontinue use of drugs or alcohol should consult with a physician before stopping the substance completely.

What about Testimonials Promoting Rapid Detox?

The advertisements for rapid detox programs found online and in other sources always include testimonials from “satisfied” or “successful” patients. Research indicates that claims made by rapid detox programs that these techniques are more effective than traditional withdrawal management programs are not supported. Furthermore, numerous research studies and statements from formal organizations have found that these programs are not effective and can be dangerous

Rapid detox is basically an ineffective approach to recovery and potentially unsafe. The risks of getting involved in a rapid detox program far outweigh any potential benefits.

Recovery from a Substance Use Disorder

It’s important to note that detox is not, in an of itself, a recovery program. Despite volumes of literature and numerous statements by professional organizations, such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration there still remains an impression that simply going through the withdrawal process or going through detox is enough to recovery from a substance use disorder. However, detox is not a program of recovery. It is a necessary first step in developing a recovery program for some individuals.

Generally speaking, it is recommended that individuals participate in a full spectrum of treatment, which can include a combination of:

  • Physician-assisted withdrawal management programs.
  • Medically assisted treatment, such as the continued use of medications to deal with cravings for drugs or to promote abstinence.
  • Substance use disorder treatment programs that includes therapy and participation in other interventions.
  • Support from others, such as friends, family, or other individuals in recovery.
  • Support groups, such as 12-Step groups, other social support group, etc.,
  • Co-occurring disorder treatment. Because people diagnosed with substance use disorders often have other co-occurring mental health conditions or disorders, it is important to address these issues at the same time.

One key component of a successful recovery program is remaining in treatment for a sufficient length of time. There is no specific identified time period that constitutes a successful treatment program, but the longer that an individual remains in treatment the better the outcome.

Drug Addiction Treatment near Dallas, TX

Recovering from drug addiction is a process and often requires specialized care. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, we can help. The team of highly-qualified and compassionate addiction treatment specialists at Greenhouse Treatment Center in Grand Prairie, TX have decades of experience using effective evidence-based solutions to help people get on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

To find out more about our inpatient drug and alcohol treatment, or any of our levels of care, contact our knowledgeable admissions navigators at . They can answer any of your questions about admissions for drug rehab, ways to pay for treatment, and even help you make travel arrangements. Greenhouse Treatment Center is in network with many insurance providers, too. To find out if you’re covered,


You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Greenhouse is located in Grand Prairie, Texas, which is easily accessible from Dallas and Fort Worth.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Aetna or Humana offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.