Residential detoxification: Essential for marginalised, severely alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals

Edmund Silins*, Claudia Sannibale, Sarah Larney, Alex Wodak, Richard Mattick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction and Aims. In an era of health care rationalisation, residential detoxification services catering for drug- and alcohol-dependent homeless people are being closed. The principal findings of a recent evaluation of a non-medicated residential detoxification service are presented. The aims were to describe the characteristics of residents, their experience of admission, rates of withdrawal completion, referral patterns, staff and key informant perceptions of the service and its role within the wider treatment system. Design and Methods. A process evaluation was utilised incorporating interviews with residents (n=80) and key informants (n=13); a survey of all service staff (n=10); and demographic and clinical data for all residents (n=392) admitted over one calendar year. Results. Residents were heavily substance-dependent and marginalised, with many exhibiting substantial mental and physical health impairments. Polydrug use and frequent prior engagement with drug and alcohol services were common. The majority completed withdrawal and were referred to further treatment. Residents who presented for heroin and other opiate withdrawal were more likely than other residents to leave before completing treatment (odds ratio 2.47, 95% confidence interval 1.48-4.15). Information from key informants, service staff and residents converged in underscoring the important role performed by the service. Discussion and Conclusion. Out-patient detoxification for homeless and severely drug- and alcohol-dependent populations is unrealistic. For this group, access to residential detoxification is vital as it provides an environment where potentially serious medical and psychological complications can be managed. There continues to be a clear role for supervised withdrawal in such a setting. [Silins E, Sannibale C, Larney S, Wodak A, Mattick R. Residential detoxification: Essential for marginalised, severely alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals. Drug Alcohol Rev 2008;27:414-419].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-419
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Marginalised populations
  • Process evaluation
  • Residential detoxification
  • Substance dependence


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