Rapid Alcohol Detox: Side Effects And Risks

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 4, 2021

Rapid alcohol detox is a detox method that utilizes anesthesia and other medications to rapidly eliminate alcohol from the body. This is a controversial detox method that is faster than traditional alcohol detox and may not be suitable for everyone.

How Does Rapid Alcohol Detox Work?

Rapid alcohol detoxification is a type of detox method that essentially speeds up the process of detoxing from alcohol with the use of anesthesia and analgesic medicine.

Rapid alcohol detox is not offered by all detox or treatment centers. Due to certain health risks and high costs, this is not the preferred detox treatment for people addicted to alcohol.

Here you’ll find more information about how rapid alcohol detox works, the side effects of rapid alcohol detox, and how to find addiction treatment for alcohol abuse.

Find out more about how to detox from alcohol

How Rapid Alcohol Detox Works

Rapid detox is an expedited detox process that may be safe when performed by qualified medical professionals in an appropriate setting.

Rapid alcohol detox essentially involves sedating a person with anesthesia for several hours and sometimes medicating them with opioid antagonists to block the effects of alcohol.

This type of detox method may expedite acute withdrawal and reduce the severity of symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.

How Long Does Rapid Detox Last?

The entire rapid detoxification process can be completed in as little as a few hours in a medical setting under close supervision and monitoring.

In contrast, a traditional detox alcohol program lasts about five to seven days on average. This typically takes place in a detox treatment facility.

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Side Effects Of Rapid Alcohol Detox

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are commonly experienced by people with alcohol dependence, or alcohol use disorder, who quit drinking alcohol.

The rapid detox method is touted as one that may help prevent severe alcohol withdrawal, including a life-threatening form of withdrawal known as delirium tremens (DTs).

Rapid detox, however, is not guaranteed to be painless or to fully eradicate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that can occur after your last drink.

Common side effects of alcohol detox typically include:

  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tremors
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • sweating
  • fast heart rate
  • increased body temperature

Seizures, hallucinations, and confusion can also develop in some people. These are signs of delirium tremens, a very severe and potentially life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal.

Advantages Of Rapid Alcohol Detox

Rapid detox is praised by some medical professionals as a faster and less painful way to detox from alcohol. This is because of the medicine used for this method.

Potential advantages of rapid detox include:

  • greater convenience for people who can’t be away long
  • much quicker detoxification process (a few hours versus days)
  • strong medicine for moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms
  • may be helpful for people who’ve struggled to detox through other means

With medical supervision and support, rapid alcohol detox may help set a person up for an alcohol rehab program, through which a person can receive comprehensive addiction treatment.

Disadvantages Of Rapid Alcohol Detox

Rapid alcohol detox, while touted for several potential benefits, is not well-researched and is not universally accepted in the medical community, for a few reasons.

Reliance On Anesthesia And Strong Sedatives

First, it relies on the use of anesthesia, rendering it similar to the practice of putting someone in a medically induced coma for drug or alcohol detox.

This may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with co-occurring mental health disorders, or other drug abuse or addiction issues.

High Risk Of Medical Complications

Rapid detox is a relatively new detoxification method and is not well-studied. Initial findings, however, suggest it may have a higher risk of medical complications.

Rapid detoxification from opiates, for example, has been associated with serious complications such as cardiac arrest and death.

Less is known about the potential risks and complications of rapidly detoxing from alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and other addictive substances.

Withdrawal Symptoms After Rapid Detox

Rapid alcohol detox may alleviate severe symptoms of acute withdrawal, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent protracted, or long-term, alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Feeling depressed, anxious, and craving alcohol, for instance, are symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that may last for some weeks or months after last drinking alcohol.

Risk Of Relapse After Rapid Alcohol Detox

Rapid alcohol detox doesn’t eliminate the risk of relapsing to alcohol.

After detox, it’s strongly recommended that an individual with alcohol use disorder transition into a comprehensive alcohol rehab program through an addiction treatment facility.

Detox alone isn’t a cure for alcohol addiction. This can take time. Alcohol addiction is generally treated with treatments such as counseling, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment.

High Cost Of Rapid Alcohol Detox

Another downside of rapid alcohol detox is its very high cost. Some programs can cost thousands of dollars out-of-pocket and are not typically covered by health insurance.

Traditional medical detox programs, on the other hand, often are covered by health plans, and even out-of-pocket don’t typically have as high a price tag.

Rapid Alcohol Detox FAQs

Find answers to common questions about rapid alcohol detoxification.

❓ Is Rapid Alcohol Detox Safe?

✔️ Some healthcare providers say it can be safe when performed in a closely monitored medical setting under the supervision of qualified medical professionals.

However, rapid alcohol and drug detox methods have also come under fire for reports of adverse reactions to rapid detox, including cardiac arrest and death.

❓ What Medications Are Used For Rapid Alcohol Detox?

✔️ The medications used in a rapid alcohol detox program may vary depending on the program. However, they generally rely on the use of some type of anesthetic.

Sedatives and opioid antagonists like naltrexone may also be used to support the process of alleviating alcohol dependency and blocking the effects of alcohol in the brain.

Read more about medications used during alcohol detox

❓ Can You Do Rapid Alcohol Detox At Home?

✔️ No. Rapid alcohol detox is a type of detoxification method that is only performed within a clinical setting under the supervision of qualified healthcare professionals.

Seeking support from an outpatient detox program or medical doctor is encouraged before attempting to detox from alcohol at home.

❓ What’s The Best Way To Detox From Alcohol?

✔️ The gold standard for detoxing from alcohol is medical detoxification. Medical detox is an inpatient detox program that generally lasts three to seven days.

Medical detox provides 24-hour supervision, medical treatment, and support within a safe and quiet clinical environment.

Find Help For Alcohol Addiction Today

It’s common for people to search for fast ways to detox or to overcome an alcohol addiction without experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

By calling our helpline, we can:

  • identify the most suitable alcohol treatment option for you
  • explain your different alcohol detox treatment options
  • verify your insurance coverage for alcohol detox
  • find an alcohol detox program that meets your needs

Don’t wait. Call us today to find an alcohol treatment program for yourself or a loved one at a leading substance abuse rehab center.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 4, 2021
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