IV Detox For Substance Abuse: Does It Work?

Last Updated: November 1, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Intravenous detoxification, also called detox therapy, is an effective method used in substance abuse detoxification centers for safe withdrawal from drugs of abuse. IV therapy detox purges these drugs and toxins from the system while also replenishing the body’s depleted stores of fluids and nutrients. Consequently, IV therapy for drug detox lowers withdrawal symptoms, reduces cravings, and energizes the body.

What is IV Detox?

IV detox treatment involves introducing nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and, in some cases, oxygen directly into the bloodstream of a recovering addict through a vein. Delivering these nutrients helps to purge out drugs and neutralize toxins in the body.

This therapy is not a substitute for regular medical detoxification if considering hard drugs like heroin, alcohol, or cocaine. Detox medications, medical assistance, and inpatient care will still be necessary. However, even after medical detoxification, an addict can still experience some withdrawal signs, and IV detox with supplements can make it easier.

Drug addiction depletes the body’s stores of nutrients and releases free radicals in the bloodstream that could cause damage to various organs and overall health.

For instance, heavy alcohol consumption depletes the body’s stores of vitamin A, thiamine, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. Furthermore, alcohol consumption triggers prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, which cause rapid fluid loss and dehydration.

Nurse administering IV detox therapy to a patient.

These nutrients, therefore, must be administered to expedite the withdrawal process and lower the severity of withdrawals. Why not take oral vitamins, one may ask? Oral administration of these nutrients leaves only about 30-40% of the vitamin absorbed, unlike IV therapy detox, where almost 100% is absorbed. And for alcohol recovering addicts, vitamins are not significantly absorbed in the gut because of the effects of prolonged alcohol consumption on the gut’s absorptive capacity. This 100% bioavailability of nutrients makes nutrient drips effective as a medicine for alcohol detoxification.

How Does IV Therapy For Drug Detox Work?

There are different types of IV detox fluids for substance abuse detox, with each having various components. These include amino acid therapy, vitamin therapy, antioxidant therapy, and NAD therapy, each of which has a different mechanism of action.

Although most of the ingredients for the infusions can be bought over the counter, it does not mean that they are entirely safe to use for self-medication. It is essential not to use them without medical prescription and supervision. Incorrect IV detoxification procedure or dosage may result in severe consequences. Some of the ingredients in drips may also cause allergies. Do not use this method for at-home detox.

Amino Acid Drips

Amino acid infusion works on the principle of neurotransmitter imbalance, which underlies drug and alcohol addiction. These substances alter the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, resulting in psychological and physical symptoms that characterize drug and alcohol addiction.

This wrong neurotransmitter balance is removed during addiction treatment, and the body is exposed to the severe, underlying imbalance, resulting in intense cravings for the drug and acute withdrawal symptoms.

Neurotransmitters are derived from amino acids; thus, IV therapy detox fluids containing amino acids help restore this balance, lowering these symptoms and helping recovering alcoholics and drug addicts wean off successfully.

Intravenous amino acid drips provide fast recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, requiring only 5-7 days of daily drip treatment for complete relief. It may be administered as part of an inpatient medical detox or outpatient treatment. While medicated detoxification may require several weeks of treatment, IV detox therapy drips with amino acids take less than a week.

Antioxidant Drips

IV detoxification drips with glutathione have been popular in recent times for the treatment of substance abuse disorders. These drips deliver glutathione – a powerful antioxidant – directly into the bloodstream, where it neutralizes free radicals released by alcohol and psychoactive drugs.

Chronic drug and alcohol addiction leads to oxidative stress, where free radicals and pro-inflammatory chemicals such as reactive oxygen species are more abundant in circulation than anti-inflammatory compounds.

So these drugs deplete the body’s natural antioxidants and cause an oxidant imbalance that results in several adverse changes, including cognitive impairment and neurological toxicity.

As an essential part of the weaning-off process, glutathione is delivered to the brain through the bloodstream, where it restores this balance, potentially reversing many of these oxidant-induced changes. It helps to expedite the detoxification from toxins.

NAD Drips

Intravenous detoxification with NAD, or Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is an effective therapy for drug and alcohol addiction. It flushes out all toxic drugs from circulation and energizes the body, and reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms during treatment.

NAD is a naturally occurring co-enzyme in the body that plays a crucial role in energy production within cells. It is an essential cofactor required in the metabolic pathways that convert food to energy. NAD is also vital for DNA repair and brain function. With drug and alcohol addiction, the body’s store of NAD is significantly depleted.

Man receiving NAD IV detox therapy at a center.

IV therapy for drug detox with NAD typically requires one infusion per day for ten days, where NAD is slowly infused into the bloodstream, with an immediate boost in energy levels and improved brain function. Furthermore, NAD drips restore cellular function and reduce the craving for drugs and alcohol.

Although NAD drips do not eliminate these symptoms when administered alone, they are most effective when combined with amino acid and vitamin infusions for substance abuse detox services.

Most patients need 6-10 drips to get complete relief. So Intravenous NAD treatment may be administered every day, one infusion per day, for up to 10 days. After an initial IV detox treatment, the patient may receive follow-up injections a month or two after.

How IV Drips Are Administered

The detox is usually administered in outpatient rehabs for drug addiction. A trained nurse administers the drip each day. First, the nurse cleans the IV site, inserts the intravenous line into the vein, and administers the infusion.

Each IV therapy detox drip can last for an hour or more depending on their constitutions, and a patient may need to have repeated drip infusions for optimal results.

The drips may also be administered in mobile IV units. However, it is crucial to check the medical license of the person administering such detox, as some fraudulent organizations claim to provide such services.

Is IV Therapy Detox Effective?

In one case, a recent FDA report shows that NAD drip significantly improves overall and craving ratings. It also describes NAD drip treatment as a good solution for opioid abuse, prescription drug abuse, and post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

The report reveals the effectiveness of drip therapy containing NAD and amino acids in a patient with prolonged stimulant use. The patient, a 34-year-old woman, had used cocaine and Ritalin for several years. She had also commenced Suboxone, one of the treatment drugs for opiates.

After just seven days of NAD-amino acid accelerated IV detox drips, all cravings resolved, brain fatigue from withdrawal stopped, and anxiety and bone pain accompanying Suboxone disappeared. In addition, the report notes that she texted a month following the treatment that she was sober and relapse-free.

A recent pilot study evaluating the effectiveness of intravenous KB220IV amino acid drips in a residential addiction treatment program found that it improves treatment outcomes significantly. About 23 patients in the program received the treatment, receiving at least five drips over seven days.

The study results revealed that almost all the patients – 21 (91%) – were sober at six months, and 19 of them had no relapse. Nineteen remained sober at one year, with 18 having no relapse, and 21 were sober at two years post-therapy, with 16 having no relapse.

Pitfalls of Drip Treatment

Detox therapy is generally safe, and complications are rare. However, a small percentage of patients may experience side effects associated with intravenous drug administration, such as swelling, discomfort, and skin tightness around the IV site.

Some patients may also develop phlebitis, an inflammation of the veins used for the infusion; however, this rarely happens.

Finding Help with IV Therapy for Drug Treatment

IV detoxification is a safe, standard procedure to treat substance dependence. Intravenous therapy delivers essential nutrients, fluids, and energy while ridding the body of free radicals and drugs. It offers a fast recovery, increased immune and brain function, leaving no complications. Contact the best intravenous vitamins and detox centers or mobile IV units to get started on the road to recovery.

Note that IV detox is not a foolproof remedy for addiction. Body cleanse is just the first step in the treatment procedure. Full recovery is possible if IV detox is used with other behavioral therapies that discover the root cause of drug abuse. If no other therapies were used, the chances of relapse increase. Contact drug detox centers for additional information.

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Page Sources

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Published on: October 25th, 2019

Updated on: November 1st, 2021

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.