Addicts who are addicted to opioid medications (heroin, morphine and pain medications) have a tremendous hurdle to initial recovery. The detoxification from all of these medications is horribly painful and long. Most addicts will require 5-8 days for withdrawal symptoms to stop. This varies with each user, depending on the individual, their health issues, and frequency and amount of drug(s) being used.
Rapid Opiate Detox: Is It Effective?
Several alternatives to getting off these drugs have been found over the course of the last 10-15 years. Some professionals advocate for substitution drugs such as Suboxone and Methadone. This is termed “Rapid Opiate Detox” or “ROD.” The case has not been made for this form of detox being either more effective or in reducing symptoms.
The reason this method is not seen as more effective is that use of these drugs is not reducing recidivism rates for opiate addicts, nor is there a lessening of withdrawal symptoms for most. Research has not proven its benefits. In fact, both of these drugs, touted as being “non-habit-forming”, are, in fact, highly addictive. Some addicts use these drugs to substitute for their initial addiction. Other addicts use these as well as their original opiates.
Once they have completed withdrawal from their initial opiates, addicts must then go through withdrawal process from the substitute drugs. There is little to recommend this process, according to both research and the addicts themselves. Most addicts with opiate addiction prefer to “kick” their drugs with the help of other addicts, and few will request or prefer this method. Those with health risks may utilize this method to remain in medical care while getting off their drug.
Some professionals use Clonodine during the detox process. This is believed to offset some of the withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings. However, the phenomenon of craving is primarily caused by the discomfort of withdrawal. Therefore, there is no research indicating that this is helpful or beneficial for the addict.
Introduced in the early 1990s, Ultra-Rapid Opiate Detoxification (UROD) utilizes different technology to assist addicts in detox. This method requires anesthesia for treatment; which has not yet been statistically shown to decrease symptoms, nor has it proven to reduce symptoms. This practice has had harsh criticism for its medical risks, along with little proven efficacy.
Medical supervision is necessary and highly important with this method. Hospitalization should be sought, along with careful monitoring. High in cost and not covered by insurance, there is no strong recommendation for UROD. The only positive reports available are found from sources where this treatment is provided. Addicts with experience of withdrawal from opiates have not made this recommendation. Most will testify that there is no improvement on withdrawal by either ROD or UROD.
Those with addiction to pain medications and a long-term or chronic pain condition may benefit from a substitution drug such as Methadone. However, they will seldom remain abstinent from all forms of opiate medications. They may have to find a drug that can be legally administered to them, such as methods used in hospice care for end-of-life pain management.
Hospitals, physicians and drug companies have spent enormous amounts of time and money lobbying for the effectiveness of both ROD and UROD. Those who have overcome their addiction(s) to opiate drugs do not agree with them about the value(s) of these medications. Each addict will have to decide for themselves how best to navigate this issue.