How Rapid Detox Works

Rapid detox, otherwise known as rapid detoxification, is a specific process where the patient undergoes general anesthesia for about 4-6 hours. During this time, drugs such as naltrexone or naloxone are administered to help the body get rid of substance dependence. This can be given in the form of a rapid detox drink before sedation or provided intravenously.

The purpose of rapid detox is to reduce the effects of withdrawal, lessen the time a person suffers from substance dependence, and to become a substitute for the long-term process of rehabilitation.

It is important to know that there are recommendations against rapid detox because of the risks involved. Although it may be appealing to many people because of its seemingly fast-acting process, there are things you need to be informed about if you are considering a rapid detox procedure.

How Does Rapid Detox Work?

As previously mentioned, the rapid detox cleanse works by using opioid antagonist drugs such as naltrexone and naloxone. An opioid antagonist is a drug that attempts to remove the effects of opioids in the body. This is why rapid detox for benzodiazepines and prescription opioids are one of the most common procedures searched by those who desire addiction treatment.

Here is a step-by-step sample of a rapid detox procedure:

Step 1: Opioid antagonist administration

The first step of rapid detox is providing the opioid antagonist medication. It can be given through a drink, a tablet, or provided intravenously. This all depends on the severity of the addiction or preference of the client. The opioid antagonist will soon act on the body, which will result in withdrawal symptoms.

Step 2: General anesthesia or sedation

In order to avoid the unpleasant effects of withdrawal, the second step of rapid detox involves providing general anesthesia. The patient will be under sedation for about 4-6 hours as the opioid antagonist works to get rid of the substance in the body. As the person is not conscious, it is possible that they can avoid the uncomfortable peak of withdrawal symptoms during this time period.

Step 3: Monitoring for stability

As the person wakes up from general anesthesia, medical staff will be present to monitor if the person is already stable and withdrawal symptoms are minimized. The patient is usually observed overnight and if there are no complications coming from the rapid detox, he or she can be discharged.

This appears to be a simple and easy process, but there are also warnings about its risks and effectivity. Below, you will discover some information that can help you know if rapid detox works as a long-term management for an addiction problem.

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Is Rapid Detox Effective?

If you are considering a rapid detox program, you may be wondering if it’s truly a solution to substance use disorders. Although this was a well-known procedure back in the 1980s, it is becoming less and less popular due to the risks involved. A news article published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that there are deaths related to anesthesia-assisted detox programs.

Additionally, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that there are several potential side effects of undergoing a rapid detox program:

  • Breathing problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Respiratory distress
  • Thyroid hormone issues
  • High levels of stress hormones
  • Irregular cardiac function
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Suicide ideation
  • Death

The study from JAMA also mentions that there are 3 cases of patients who underwent rapid detox and experienced potentially life-threatening side effects. Additionally, the researchers did not see any significant difference in effectiveness for those who underwent a regular detox program vs. a rapid detox procedure.

Rapid detox only treats addiction at a surface-level, by reducing withdrawal symptoms. If you are looking for a way to get rid of an addiction problem for the long haul, it would be best to look at a comparison between rapid detox and regular detox programs.

Rapid Detox Vs. Regular Detox

To better understand the differences and similarities between rapid detox and regular detox, here is a table comparison of what you can expect from each procedure.

Rapid Detox

  • The patient is given general anesthesia and sedated for 4-6 hours
  • Opioid antagonist drugs are provided in large doses
  • The patient is monitored after treatment for 24 hours or less
  • Medical assistance is available before, during, and shortly after treatment
  • The patient may be discharged when stable

Regular Detox

  • The patient is not given general anesthesia
  • Opioid antagonist drugs are provided in small to moderate doses
  • The patient is monitored after treatment for 72 hours or more
  • Medical assistance is available before, during, and after treatment
  • The patient is recommended to undergo treatment proper after regular detox

As you can note, regular detox goes on towards a route of longer monitoring, smaller doses of antagonist drugs, and recommendations for treatment proper afterward. In comparison to rapid detox, regular detox accompanied by treatment proper and aftercare can provide a better, long-term solution to addiction problems.

Should I Do Rapid Detox?

The goal of this article is to help you make an informed decision about detox programs that truly work. In summary, the information gathered from scientific journals and years of research about rapid detox states that it is not ideal for treating the brain disease of addiction. Much like medication, rapid detox only treats withdrawal symptoms but does not do much in addressing the brain’s ability to overcome cravings or avoid substance use disorder triggers.

Yes, some people may attempt to self-medicate by looking for a rapid detox drink or looking for centers that show an affordable rapid detox price, quick and easy treatments do not always translate to effectiveness. The studies report that the risks of undergoing a rapid detox procedure definitely outweigh its benefits.

In fact, news outlets report that rapid detox in California and New York is associated with deaths following the procedure.

If you are looking for a more sustainable and effective program, you may consider looking into a regular detox and complete inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation treatment for addiction.

What You Can Do Instead

If rapid detox addresses the symptoms associated with drug or alcohol withdrawal, complete rehabilitation will help you dig deep into the root causes of addiction. Going through the entire rehabilitation process will allow you to find custom-fit strategies that help you battle substance use disorder.

Here are some things you can expect when undergoing inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation in Sunshine Behavioral Health centers:

Drug Detox

Drug detox is still part of the process, but it isn’t much of an extreme procedure compared to rapid detox. The drug detox will typically last around 3 days, where a health professional staff will provide you with comfortable lodging, nutritious meals, and medications to ensure a safe and comfortable time during the peak of withdrawal.

It is normal to expect some discomfort during this time because the body is getting back to its usual state prior to substance use disorder. You may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms during drug detox. Once the body stabilizes after the drug detox period, you may proceed towards the treatment proper.

Treatment Proper

Following drug detox, it is essential to have a formal treatment process to help you address the root cause of addiction. The reasons why addiction forms are different for people, and why treatment options should be varied as well. In Sunshine Behavioral Health centers, the following treatment programs are available:

The treatment program that you will undergo depends on health professionals’ recommendations as well as your personal preferences. You may combine these programs or complete one after another, depending on your specific needs.

Enrolling in an inpatient program requires you to stay in a rehabilitation facility for a period of time. This is done to help you focus on addiction recovery and remove you from potential environmental triggers that can cause a relapse. An outpatient program, on the other hand, does not require you to stay in the facility, but you are required to follow home instructions or attend activities within the center.


Undergoing treatment proper ensures that issues that trigger addiction are addressed. The role of aftercare is to help people to avoid further relapse and aid in long-term recovery. Aftercare is also very important treatment because it helps patients become accountable even as they resume a normal life.

Some of the aftercare options that are available in Sunshine Behavioral Health centers include the following:

  • One-on-one or group counseling sessions
  • Continued psychotherapies
  • Relapse prevention protocols
  • Nutrition and fitness plans
  • Habits and lifestyle changes
  • Local support groups
  • Recreational activities and hobbies

Clients can do as many aftercare programs as they deem necessary to assist in their recovery.

If you are decided about undergoing rehabilitation but are not sure about your condition, the list below may help you confirm the signs if you do have an addiction.

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Signs Of Addiction

According to the recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), addiction is considered a health condition treated at the same level as other mental health disorders. In summary, there are 11 criteria that describe someone with a substance use disorder problem:

  • Hazardous use: Your intake of drugs or alcohol has caused danger to yourself or your loved ones. These include overdosing on drugs, driving after drinking alcohol, or violent behaviors after substance use.
  • Relationship problems related to substance use: Your relationship with family, friends, and other people have taken a negative turn after substance use disorder.
  • Neglected major roles due to substance use: You have failed to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, at home, or in other settings.
  • Legal problems: You may have experienced running into law enforcement in relation to substance use.
  • Withdrawal: You are experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, muscle pain, vomiting, fever, and other bodily aches when you attempt to decrease or stop drug use.
  • Used larger amounts: You have taken in larger doses of the substances recently compared to how you’ve done in your earlier days of drug or alcohol use.
  • Tolerance: Related to a larger amount of use, your body seems to get used to the substance, so much that you need to gradually increase your intake to get the same effect.
  • Physical and psychological problems related to use: You experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. You may also have deteriorating health such as liver damage, heart problems, or respiratory issues because of drug, alcohol, or tobacco use.
  • Given up activities due to use: You may have quit hobbies, recreational activities, and other pursuits in exchange for increased substance use.
  • Cravings: You experience an intense desire to take the substances and feel restless if you don’t take your regular dose.
  • Repeated attempts to control or quit use: You have tried multiple times to stop or decrease your alcohol or substance use, but cravings and withdrawal symptoms may have stopped you from doing so.
  • If you notice these signs on you or a loved one, it is best to seek professional help on how you can get started on your rehabilitation.

Paying For Rehabilitation

You may be tempted to settle with rapid detox for cost comparisons, but rehabilitation is a more sustainable and effective way to recover from an addiction. Here are some ways to finance your rehab treatment:

  • Health insurance: You can verify your insurance with Sunshine Behavioral Health, as we accept most major insurance policies to cover your addiction treatment costs.
  • Sponsors: There are government and non-government agencies that support causes related to addiction recovery. You may apply for grants and sponsorships to add to your rehabilitation treatment.
  • Family and Friends: One way for your friends and family to show support is providing you with finances to help in addiction recovery. You may lend money or ask family and friends to become your sponsors.
  • Fundraisers: You can set up an online crowdfunding account, create events, or sell products to help raise funds to cover partial or full costs of rehab.
  • Savings: If you have some money in your savings account, this can greatly help to cover some or most of the treatment costs especially without insurance. Do not consider paying for rehab as a loss–it is an investment to your health and improvement of your life.

Choose Effective Over Rapid

Do not be enticed with the promise of rapid results of anesthesia-related detox. Sometimes, the most effective way is a slow yet fulfilling rehabilitation journey. It is possible to break free from addictions by taking it one day at a time–through long-term rehabilitation and recovery plans.



  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Deaths and Severe Adverse Events Associated with Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Opioid Detoxification.
  • JAMA Network –   Anesthesia-Assisted vs Buprenorphine- or Clonidine-Assisted Heroin Detoxification and Naltrexone Induction: A Randomized Trial.
  • US News –  1 in 3 Young Adults Suffers From Loneliness in U.S.
  • MedPage Today –  Opioid Detox Linked to Lethal Events.
  • NCBI –  DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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