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What is Rapid Drug Detoxification?

Rapid drug detoxification is exactly what it sounds like: an accelerated process to detox from drugs or alcohol. While still a relatively new practice, rapid drug detoxification can help people to bypass uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms related to withdrawal. However, there are both benefits and risks associated with this practice. Therefore, understanding how it works is critical for people who are considering going through a medical detox program.

Before rapid drug detox can be understood, a person must have an understanding of what detoxification and Acute Withdrawal Syndrome consist of.

Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

When a person becomes physically dependent and then outright addicted to a substance, a series of neurological processes occur that change the chemistry of the user’s brain and nervous system – permanently. These changes are responsible for the dramatic cravings that addicts experience both during active addiction and even long after they have achieved consistent sobriety. However, when it comes to the immediate problem of detox, the changes that occur in the body are often uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous.

The changes that occur in the central nervous system and brain as a result of substance abuse and addiction actually work to – in a way – normalize the body. This explains the process of tolerance- where more and more of a substance is required to achieve the same desired effect. In very basic terms, it’s as if the body becomes accustomed to the substance. However, once this occurs the body can only operate “normally” as long as the drug is in the system.

Once the drug is suddenly withheld from the system, the body begins going through withdrawal. As neurons and receptors in the brain that were suppressed by drug use suddenly become hyperactive, a wide variety of symptoms can occur. This includes symptoms as benign as tiredness to those as dangerous as grand mal seizures. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, general symptoms include:

• Sleep difficulties
• Problems with short-term memory
• Persistent fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
• Alcohol or drug cravings
• Impaired executive control
• Anhedonia
• Difficulty focusing on tasks
• Dysphoria or depression
• Irritability
• Unexplained physical complaints
• Reduced interest in sex (1)

However, the symptoms, intensity and duration of detox vary significantly from patient to patient. In severe cases of alcohol or benzodiazepine addiction, the recovering addict’s lie may be in danger. But in cases of marijuana dependence, the situation will not likely be as severe. But in either case, many addicts would prefer to avoid the unpleasant side effects of detox, and that’s where Rapid Drug Detoxification comes in.

According to the Wikipedia entry for Drug Detoxification and Rapid Detoxification;

“Rapid detox patients placed under anesthesia while given treatment drugs, such as naltrexone, can avoid the extreme pain associated with such treatments, say proponents, and bypass the major effects of withdrawal.” (2)

In basic terms this means that the worst symptoms of drug detox and acute withdrawal can be avoided in some cases via medical intervention. In What is Rapid Drug Detoxification Part 2, we’ll discuss exactly what this practice consists of and detail both the benefits and the dangers. But if you or someone you love is battling an addiction right now, you can get help just by calling the number at the top of your screen. Detox doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting help – with the right treatment symptoms can be managed. But nothing can be done if you don’t call, so pick up the phone now.

(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory: Protracted Withdrawal July 2010 Volume 9 Issue 1
Accessed 03/15/2012

(2) Wikipedia Drug Detoxification
Accessed 03/15/2012

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More