The Dangers of Rapid Detox
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The Dangers of Rapid Detox


Without proper medical supervision, detoxing from opioids or alcohol can be dangerous. It’s dangerous because when the body becomes dependent on a substance, and when that substance is withdrawn, it can cause a number of severe consequences. Patients can avoid health risks and unnecessary discomfort if they choose to undergo a medically assisted opioid treatment like rapid detox. Unfortunately, some physicians or institutions that provide rapid detox do so without following basic safety precautions, making medical opioid detoxification riskier than trying to detox on your own.

How to Spot a Dangerous Rapid Detox Program

It can sometimes be difficult to spot a dangerous rapid detox program. Rapid detox centers may advertise “painless detox,” “overnight cure for addiction” or other unfounded yet attractive promises, which may lead people to believe in miracles. The truth is that rapid detox is a medical procedure that requires a hospital, an experienced anesthesiologist and monitored recovery time; in other words, a safe rapid detox has to be performed carefully and responsibly.

If you research rapid detox programs on the internet, you will find a number of radically different opinions and a variety of options. You will also find different centers stating they are the best rapid detox in the country. Although it can be difficult to tell which ones are safe and which ones are not, there are some key red flags when choosing the safest or best rapid detox program.

Rapid Detox Danger Signs to Look for:

Danger Sign #1 – The program is NOT in a full-service hospital

Anesthesia-assisted detox, or “rapid detox” as it is commonly known, is a great option for some patients but not appropriate for others. As patients withdraw from opioid drugs, their body undergoes intense and rapid changes. This rapid change has to be properly monitored by an experienced medical team. Opioid withdrawal affects breathing, blood pressure, alertness, bowel function, and electrolyte levels, among other bodily functions. Patients who are undergoing anesthesia-assisted detox should be treated in a facility that can monitor and can manage these issues swiftly, safely, and effectively. Therefore, the safest rapid detox is the one that takes place in full-service hospital.

Danger Sign #2 – The program takes all candidates, regardless of health

Rapid detox is not for everyone. A patient who wants to undergo rapid detox must be physically and emotionally ready to undertake the process. A safe rapid detox program will evaluate each prospective patient individually and determine whether this is the adequate treatment for them. A dangerous detox program will admit patients the day of treatment, without the appropriate time for a comprehensive history and physical assessment or adequate pre-treatment. Furthermore, due to the lack of additional detox options, these rapid detox centers my treat a patient that would do much better with an alternate detoxification protocol.

Danger Sign #3 – The program uses regular medical beds, not ICU beds 

Anesthesia-assisted detox is an intensive process, so it requires intensive care. Patients should be treated in a private room of an intensive care unit. This allows patients to be closely monitored with around the clock supervision by highly trained physicians and nurses. ICUs have state-of-the-art monitoring capabilities and equipment, all within reach. Sadly, some subpar rapid detox centers admit patients without these essential resources to give them the individualized attention and care they need and deserve.

Danger Sign #4 – The program is a surgical center, not a hospital

This danger sign may not seem immediately obvious. One would think that a surgical center would be able to provide the same level of care as a full-service hospital; that is not the case. A surgical center is designed for one thing: outpatient surgery. This type of detox program might be acceptable if no unexpected events occur during the detox process. Unfortunately, if something unexpected does occur, staff at the surgical center will need to move the patient to a real hospital for treatment. This puts the patient at a considerable risk. Also, many surgical centers do not permit extended stays; therefore, if a patient is not physically stable for discharge, the physician does not have a lot of choices. Having this limitation causes people to be prematurely sent to hotels, placing their well being at risk.

Danger Sign #5 – The program does NOT specialize in rapid detox

As the opioid crisis reaches never before seen levels, the US healthcare system is struggling to keep up. Some providers are jumping on the bandwagon and are starting to provide rapid detox without the proper experience, credentials or adequate facility. When it comes to anesthesia-assisted detox, experience matters. Experience can mean the difference between safe rapid detox and dangerous rapid detox. Prospective patients should find out how the treating physician has been performing anesthesia assisted rapid detox.

Danger Sign #6 – The program does NOT have an integrated aftercare component

Anesthesia-assisted detox is a critically important part of detox—but it is only the first step of successful treatment for opioid abuse. Once a patient emerges from anesthesia, they must start the process of recovery. The early part of recovery can be the most difficult; patients face a barrage of internal and external challenges. As much as loved ones want to help, they are not trained to properly handle or assess someone in such a fragile state. As such, detox programs that do not include an integrated recovery care component for at least a few days are simply discharging patients when they are at their most vulnerable. Also, post detox, patients have reset their ability to tolerate opioid drugs; if they relapse at this point and abuse the substances again, it can be deadly.

Finding a Safe Rapid Detox Program

The best way to choose a safe rapid detox program is to educate yourself on what rapid detox is and how and where it should be performed. Furthermore, to avoid unnecessary risks, patients should select a program at a fully accredited, full-service hospital where patients are monitored in individual ICU rooms. Beware of programs that accept everyone without proper medical evaluation. Make sure the program has a long history of specializing in opioid dependence treatment and rapid detox, and that the providers have many years of experience in this field. Lastly, look for a program that has an integrated recovery component. If you select a program that meets all of these criteria, you are likely to have a safe and effective rapid detox experience.

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