Is rapid detox the latest "magic bullet" in the addiction community or does it present foundational problems
that need to be addressed before it is accepted as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment protocol?
Rapid Detox and the Addiction Withdrawal Process
Rapid detox, also known as "ultra rapid opiate detox" and Rapid Opiate Detoxification (ROD),
has a relatively short ten-year history.
As the name implies, this treatment approach primarily focuses on detoxification via reducing the withdrawal
symptoms associated with addiction to opiates such as heroin, morphine, and methadone.
As the treatment protocol advanced, however, the methodology grew to the extent that it can also be used to
reduce the withdrawal symptoms related to the addiction to prescription drugs such as oxycontin, vicodin, codeine,
percocet, and darvocet.
Depending on the drug that the addict is "hooked on," rapid detox typically takes place in a hospital or detox
facility where the patient is anesthetized for 4 to 6 or even up to 48 hours--enough time to eliminate the drug
from the patient's body.
While under anesthesia, the patient is also given doctor-prescribed medications that accelerate the physical
reactions to the withdrawal process.
The upside of this treatment approach is that the patient not only does not remember any aspect of the
withdrawal process but also that he or she is no longer dependent on the opiate or the prescription drug.
Basically, rapid detox is a detoxification method that employs anesthesia and the administering of medications
in a closely monitored hospital setting.
The "Magic" Is Challenged
Rapid detox probably received its worst "black eye" in the late 1990s when seven patients under the care of Dr.
Lance Gooberman died within days of receiving the rapid detox treatment procedure.
Gooberman claimed that the patients who died had undetected heart problems or took cocaine, thus triggering
their heart attack.
Various doctors who also utilize the rapid detox approach, however, stated that the procedure might have
severely stressed the addicts' fragile bodies, thus resulting in death.
When seen from this perspective, many in the substance abuse community are starting to wonder if rapid detox is
really a "miracle" treatment breakthrough or merely another approach in the overall treatment protocol.
Is Rapid Detox Truly a Miracle Detoxification Method?
Making the withdrawal process quicker, less painful, and less severe sounds like an addiction treatment "home
run" but is it really?
Addicts, by their nature, tend to focus on the "course of least resistance," on the easy way out.
To the extent, moreover, that successful addiction recovery involves TOTAL abstinence in combination with a
radical change in lifestyle, such a "quick fix" mentality will not prove itself to be successful in the long
In fact, according to one study, patients who received rapid detoxification still experienced withdrawal
symptoms 24 hours after detox.
Not only this, but 80 percent of the patients suffered a relapse within six months after the treatment.
Another characteristic of the addict is this: they may "beat" their addiction to one drug such as oxycontin, but
then become addicted to another drug, such as vicodin.
Translation: addicts don't face addiction problems with one drug--addicts face potential problems with ANY and
ALL mind-changing drugs or chemicals.
Addicts and The Quick Fix Mentality
Many addiction experts claim that after the detoxification process, addicts need to address the underlying
issues that are the root of their addiction if they are to recover from their addiction.
Such a task, however, frequently involves a lot of time, effort, self-reflection, an analysis of one's moral and
ethical behavior, and personal honesty.
Unfortunately, such "character issues" and the "hard work" required for "insight" and for recovery are almost
diametrically opposed to the "quick fix" mentality which many addicts embrace.
Can Alcoholics and Cocaine Addicts Receive Rapid Detox?
Does the rapid detox protocol "work" successfully with alcoholism or with cocaine addiction? Regrettably, the
short and sweet answer to this question is: "no, not at this time."
At least from a theoretical perspective, however, the sixty-four thousand question is this: "why can't rapid
detox be used with alcoholics or with cocaine addicts who suffer from excessive withdrawal symptoms"? Apparently,
additional research is needed to better answer this question.
Conclusion: Rapid Detox
The bottom line: even if rapid detox "works," it must be seen as one aspect of the addiction
Stated differently, rapid detox is a treatment approach that targets "withdrawal symptoms" and little, if
If rapid detox is employed as a part of the total addiction treatment and recovery process, however, perhaps it
can play an important and necessary part.
If rapid detox, on the other hand, is seen as the "magic bullet" of addiction detox and treatment, then its
allure as an "instant cure" will not only be misleading but perhaps more importantly, will possibly result in
Please note: According to the current research literature, rapid detox has not been employed with cocaine
addicts or with alcoholics.
At least from a conceptual vantage point, however, it would appear that alcoholics and cocaine addicts who
suffer from extremely serious withdrawal symptoms might eventually be able to receive rapid detox.
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