The newest sensation in treating opiate dependency is known as “rapid drug detox.” Rapid drug detox is a procedure by which a patient is sedated and given medications to quickly clear the system of opiates. The procedure takes place in the intensive care unit of a hospital because patients must be closely monitored. Without the proper care and observation, this process can be deadly because it is such a shock to the system.
While there is no evidence that rapid drug detox works any better than regular detox, rapid drug detox is being touted in the media as a “cure” for heroin dependency. Dr. Craig Bernstein, one of the foremost practitioners of rapid drug detox claims a 65% percent success rate after one year. Far superior, he claims, than the success rate of inpatient treatment centers or 12-step programs. What Dr. Bernstein doesn’t mention is that this success rate is not confirmed by any outside source, but rather by follow-up phone calls to former patients. Several patients of Dr. Bernstein have come out in interviews to say they were never contacted. Further, the success rate only takes into consideration abstinence from heroin, not from any other mind or mood altering substance.
While more studies need to be done, initial reports by representatives of the American Medical Association indicate that rapid drug detox is neither safe nor effective. A major limit to this treatment is that, like other detox-only programs, only represents the first stages of treatment. Rapid drug detox does not offer solutions to keep an opiate addict off illicit drugs for the long term. Dr. Bernstein’s program involves administering oral naltrexone, an opiate blocker, for a year after the treatment. However, naltrexone has been shown to have poor adherence and poor patient outcomes.
Why is this dangerous? Dr. Bernstein and other physicians like him are promoting this very costly treatment as a quick and easy cure to heroin and opiate addiction. Desperate addicts and families of addicts are likely to jump at the chance to quickly and easily treat their addiction. Dr. Bernstein, who on the side runs a pain management clinic, actively discourages patients from attending 12-step meetings, calling it “out-dated” and “ineffective.” He tells desperate and sick people that addiction is not a spiritual disease, but a physical one.
If Dr. Bernstein was right, all any of us would need would be detox, whether rapid drug detox or traditional, and our addiction would be cured. Anyone who has relapsed after some clean time can tell you this isn’t true. If drugs and alcohol were our problem, rapid drug detox would solve the problem. Unfortunately, for the true addict and alcoholic, drugs and alcohol were our solution. We don’t get better when you take away the drugs and alcohol; we get worse, because we have no idea how to manage our own lives without them.
Further, doctors like Bernstein have no true knowledge of the AA or NA program. Quoting “success statistics” from AA or NA are always going to be false, because no true statistics exist. Also, studies done on 12-step programs do not take into consideration the distinction between people truly adhering to the program, and those who just say they are. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states “rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” Well, that’s good enough for me.
If you or someone you know needs drug or alcohol treatment, call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com.