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Rapid Detox Gains Popularity

According to a report in USA Today on August 14, more people are seeking rapid detoxification as a treatment for opiate addiction. However, this expensive quick fix, which is not covered by insurance and has not been compared to clinical trials for other treatment, makes the medical and treatment communities wary.

"There have been some studies that suggest ultra-rapid detox may be OK," says H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. "But other studies have shown limited results."

The article describes one type of rapid detox done by the Waismann Institute. Specialists at the Institute prefer to call their procedure "Accelerated Opiate Neuro-Regulation," saying that rapid detox is "overly simplistic." In this procedure, patients' detoxification occurs within a period of hours, versus several days as with traditional methods. Additionally, patients are asleep during the detoxification, and given Naltrexone, instead of methadone, to block the opiates. Afterwards, all patients receive counseling to help them stay off drugs. The procedure costs $10,000.

About 1,000 patients have received treatment at the Waismann Institute over the past three years. Some of these individuals are "typical" heroin addicts, but many are well-to-do, professional individuals who have become addicted to painkillers. They, says Clare Waismann, executive director of the Waismann Institute, "just want their life back. They don't need 12-step programs."

But even a young mortgage banker had to receive retraining on life skills after his rapid detox from OxyContin, which he began taking following back surgery. "It's like being a baby. You have to learn everything again," he said. "What do I do to get out of bed? Figuring out my daily routine is the hardest thing."

"I'm almost back to normal," he said. "They saved my life."

However, treatment providers who use traditional methods recommend putting such comments in context, and ask for clinical trials testing rapid detox against other methods to see how it works in the long run. "It's one thing getting people drug-free," said Ron Jackson, a social worker at Evergreen Treatment Services in Seattle. "It's another trying to keep them drug-free."


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