Rapid drug detox generally refers to an extremely risky process where opiate-dependent patients are put under general anesthesia and, while unconscious, flooded with drugs that force the body to physically withdraw from the opiates.
While withdrawing, the body experiences the physically stressful opiate withdrawal symptoms, causing significant and extreme shock to the body. Patients awaken sickened and physically exhausted, and usually require several days of complete bed rest and medical supervision to recover sufficiently to travel. And once back home, many patients continue to experience severe residual symptoms, for days or even weeks.
As well as the problems from compressing withdrawal into a few hours, rapid drug detox also carries the inherent danger of general anesthesia, in itself a risk for many. Not all people are candidates for the procedure because of age or existing health conditions. Numerous deaths have been attributed to rapid drug detox.


Efforts to ‘commercialize’ rapid drug detox, with at least one clinic going so far as to try to trademark the term, include all sorts of promises of ease, safety and comfort, always accompanied by glowing ‘success stories’ from former patients.

In fact, rapid drug detox is uncomfortable and disappointing for many, and for others, it can be fatal.

The risks involved in rapid drug detox depend on a number of critical factors:

  • The skill and experience of the doctors
  • The opiate-dependent person’s overall health
  • The extreme stress of withdrawal on the body
  • The always-unpredictable reaction to general anesthesia


Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years alleging that patients have died due to the negligence of the doctors performing the rapid drug detox procedure, or the procedure itself.

And it should be well noted that, if substance addiction is part of the picture, the advertising claims for rapid drug detox that you can return to a drug-free life following detox are, for almost everyone, completely false. Any detox method is only the first step in recovering from addiction. Detox does not address the psychological problems that surround addiction, which go far beyond those commonly associated with a purely physical dependence.



Several recent randomized clinical studies all conclude that rapid drug detox, generally called ‘anesthesia-assisted detoxification’, offers little or nothing to recommend it.

The studies generally found that rapid drug detox:

  • Carries more risks than benefits
  • Is far more expensive than other forms of medical drug detox

  • Is no more effective than other forms of medical drug detox


A clinical study at Columbia University Medical Center, published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, selected heroin-dependent and addicted patients to test anesthesia-assisted opiate detoxification. The team’s findings did ‘not support the use of general anesthesia for heroin detoxification.’

Dr. Eric D. Collins of the Columbia team said his own and several other randomized clinical trials have ‘failed to find evidence to support long-term efficacy for the anesthesia-assisted procedure, and none has demonstrated evidence supporting its use.’

A randomized controlled clinical trial at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, found that anesthesia-assisted detoxification is ineffective compared to other standard approaches. And a third study in the Netherlands also concluded that the procedure leaves much to be desired in terms of efficacy and long-term results.



In an Journal article accompanying the Columbia University study, Dr. Patrick G. O’Connor wrote: ‘Anesthesia-assisted detoxification should have no significant role in the treatment of opioid dependence. When detoxification is provided to patients, other approaches . . . are likely to be at least as effective as anesthesia-assisted detoxification, and also are safer and far less costly.’

Dr. Vipul Patel, an internist at Henry Ford Hospital’s Maplegrove Rehab Center in West Bloomfield, MI, 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.’

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, Canada, told The Toronto Star newspaper that after a rapid drug detox procedure, patients still suffer from significant pain, anxiety, agitation, depression, diarrhea, all of the symptoms of an opiate withdrawal, days to weeks after.

‘I have never heard of any patient being completely symptom-free after 24 hours,’ Dr. Evans said, adding that, in his opinion, rapid drug 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.’

Because of the negative findings for rapid drug detox in various clinical trials in America, Switzerland, the Netherlands and elsewhere, many clinics and hospitals no longer perform the procedure, opting instead for safer, more acceptable methods of detox.



There is a safer and more comfortable alternative to rapid drug detox, called a ‘medical drug detox’ conducted on an inpatient basis. A good medical drug detox provides all these treatment protocols:

  • Patients are conscious and alert — many patients able to continue handling business and family matters remotely.
  • Nutritious meals, natural supplements, and proper hydration help patients build up their bodies so they will recover more quickly
  • The average medical drug detox requires 5 to 7 days, far less than the time required to fully recover from the effects of a rapid drug detox

  • Medications are only used as needed to facilitate and ease withdrawal
  • A thorough health screening determines the personal needs of the patient
  • After completing medical drug detox, patients feel better than they have felt in a long time, not worse like after rapid drug detox
  • Patients return home without requiring more drugs to handle discomforts created by the detox


Medical drug detox designed for each individual, taking into account the patient’s unique metabolism, DNA and level of health, is the best guarantee of successfully withdrawing from drugs or alcohol in the safest, most comfortable manner possible.