When it comes to 21st century addiction treatment, the “one-size-fits-all” methodology followed the dinosaur into extinction. Fortunately, voluntary medical addiction detox programs have evolved as well, giving opiate addicts a viable alternative to long-term treatment programs. Some even claim the patient can "sleep comfortably" through even the most painful withdrawal symptoms.
Rapid detox, a relatively recent alternative to conventional medical detox programs, promises a fast and pain-free withdrawal experience. It sounds like a viable option, especially considering the fact that fear of the withdrawal process can keep many addicts shackled to their current paths. The question is, however, are these rapid programs right for everyone?
Detox and Withdrawal Options
Generally, there are two detox options for people who need, or want, quick results.
- Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Opioid Detox: This form of rapid detox takes three days and is designed for opiate addiction. After initial examination and medical tests—blood work-up, physical exam, an EKG—the patient is given general anesthesia so that opiates are brushed or removed from brain receptors. Healthcare professionals, because of the inherent risk of undergoing general anesthesia, then closely monitor patients for 24 hours or so. Additionally, a NIDA-funded study found that withdrawal is no easier for patients using this form of detox.
- Rapid Detoxification: The second type of detox is longer—usually seven or eight days—and some would say safer, than the anesthesia-assisted rapid detox. Instead of anesthesia, patients are given IV drugs like Naltrexone to keep them comfortable during the detox and physical withdrawal process.
Both the rapid detox and the longer detox include an exit consultation and mutually agreeable recovery plan.
Evaluating the Programs
Medical detox programs are a good option for addicts looking to gain a quick return on a smaller investment, particularly when compared to the cost of most inpatient programs. These programs are especially appealing to people who can't afford to take time off work, are high-level executives, or who feel shame from a stigma-induced environment.
However, it's important to mention that medical detox programs are not without risk. While getting a jump start on recovery may initially be seen as a good thing, in the long run, is a "quick fix" the best option? What if medical detoxes, in an effort to relieve the initial pain of physical withdrawal symptoms, shield a person from the basic building blocks of early recovery, like connecting with others who are newly sober and relating to their stories?
What if a few days of medical detox eliminates the drugs but places the addict in a dangerous cycle of relapse destruction followed by another detox, only to continue the pattern?
These are questions that can only be answered honestly by the person needing treatment and her or his loved ones. Carefully investigating the best option for individualized addiction treatment is not only wise - it's essential.
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