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The use of relatively high doses of opioid antagonists under deep sedation or general anesthesia is a technique for opioid detoxification and is known as ultrarapid detoxification. It is a potential alternative to standard detoxification that allows patients to avoid the acute symptoms associated with initial detoxification. Ultrarapid detoxification is used in conjunction with maintenance treatments, eg, oral opioid antagonists and psychosocial support.
The traditional treatment of opioid addiction involves substituting the opiate (i.e., heroin) with an equivalent dose of a longer acting opioid antagonist, i.e., methadone, followed by tapering to a maintenance dose. Methadone maintenance therapy does not resolve opioid addiction, but has been shown to result in improved general health, retention of patients in treatment, and a decrease in the risk of transmitting HIV or hepatitis. However, critics of methadone maintenance point out that this strategy substitutes one drug of dependence for the indefinite use of another. Detoxification followed by abstinence is another treatment option, which can be used as the initial treatment of opioid addiction, or offered as a final treatment strategy for patients on methadone maintenance. Detoxification is associated with acute symptoms followed by a longer period of protracted symptoms (i.e., 6 months) of withdrawal. Although typically not life threatening, acute detoxification symptoms include irritability, anxiety, apprehension, muscular and abdominal pains, chills, nausea, diarrhea, yawning, lacrimation, sweating, sneezing, rhinorrhea, general weakness, and insomnia. Protracted withdrawal symptoms include a general feeling of reduced well being and drug craving. Relapse is common during this period.
Detoxification may be initiated with tapering doses of methadone or buprenophrine (an opioid agonist-antagonist), treatment with a combination of buprenophrine and naloxene (an opioid antagonist), or discontinuation of opioids and administration of oral clonidine and other medications to relieve acute symptoms. However, no matter what type of patient support and oral medications are offered, detoxification is associated with patient discomfort, and many patients may be unwilling to attempt detoxification. In addition, detoxification is only the first stage of treatment. Without ongoing medication and psychosocial support after detoxification, the probability is low that any detoxification procedure alone will result in lasting abstinence. Opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, may also be used as maintenance therapy to reduce drug craving and thus reduce the risk of relapse.
Dissatisfaction with current approaches to detoxification has led to interest in using relatively high doses of opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, naloxene, or nalmefene under deep sedation with benzodiazepine or general anesthesia. This strategy has been referred to as "ultra-rapid," "anesthesia assisted" or "one-day" detoxification. The use of opioid antagonists accelerates the acute phase of detoxification, which can be completed within 24-48 hours. Since the patient is under anesthesia, the patient has no discomfort or memory of the symptoms of acute withdrawal. Various other drugs are also administered to control acute withdrawal symptoms, such as clonidine (to attenuate sympathetic and hemodynamic effects of withdrawal), ondansetron (to control nausea and vomiting), and somatostatin (to control diarrhea). Hospital admission is required if general anesthesia is used. If heavy sedation is used, the program can potentially be offered on an outpatient basis. Initial detoxification is then followed by ongoing support for the protracted symptoms of withdrawal. In addition, naltrexone may be continued to discourage relapse.
Ultra-rapid detoxification may be offered by specialized facilities. NeuraadTM Treatment Centers, Nutmeg Intensive Rehabilitation, and Center for Research and Treatment of Addiction (CITA) are examples. These programs typically consist of three phases: a comprehensive evaluation, inpatient detoxification under anesthesia, and finally, mandatory post-detoxification care and follow-up. The program may be offered to patients addicted to opioid or narcotic drugs such as opium, heroin, methadone, morphine, meperidine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or butorphanol. Once acute detoxification is complete, the opioid antagonist naltrexone is often continued to decrease drug craving, thus hopefully reducing the incidence of relapse.
Opioid antagonists under heavy sedation or anesthesia are considered investigational as a technique for opioid detoxification (i.e., ultra-rapid detoxification).
Investigative service is defined as the use of any treatment procedure, facility, equipment, drug, device, or supply not yet recognized by certifying boards and/or approving or licensing agencies or published peer review criteria as standard, effective medical practice for the treatment of the condition being treated and as such therefore is not considered medically necessary.
The coverage guidelines outlined in the Medical Policy Manual should not be used in lieu of the Member's specific benefit plan language.
POLICY HISTORY3/2003: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)
12/17/2003: Code Reference section reviewed, ICD-9 diagnosis code range 304.00-304.03 listed separately
11/3/2004: Code Reference section updated, CPT code 01999 added, ICD-9 diagnosis code 292.00, 304.70, 304.71, 304.72, 304.73 added
3/16/2006: Policy reviewed, no changes
1/3/2007: Code reference section updated per the 2007 CPT/HCPCS revisions.
3/30/2009: Policy reviewed, no changes
02/23/2011: Policy reviewed; no changes.
01/18/2012: Policy reivewed; no changes.
04/01/2013: Policy reivewed; no changes.
03/10/2014: Policy reivewed; no changes.
02/10/2015: Policy reviewed; description updated. Policy statement unchanged.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association policy # 3.01.02
CODE REFERENCEThis may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.