One-, three-, and six-month outcomes after brief inpatient opioid detoxification

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2001 Feb;27(1):19-44. doi: 10.1081/ada-100103117.


The purpose of this study was to investigate short-term outcomes of a 3-day inpatient medical detoxification. Heroin abusers (n = 116; 66% male, 77% African-American, X = 38 years old), completed the Addiction Severity Index during detoxification, and at 1, 3, and 6 months after detoxification; 94.5% of the postdetoxification interviews were completed. During the 30 days before detoxification, mean days of self-reported use for heroin was 28, for cocaine 19, and for alcohol 14; a mean of $1,975 was spent on drugs. Across the postdetoxification interviews, mean days of reported heroin use ranged from 11 to 14; 21-30% of patients reported no heroin use, whereas 25-36% reported almost daily use. Reported use of cocaine and alcohol showed similar reductions from pre- to postdetoxification. Reports of heroin and cocaine abstinence were generally verified through urine tests. Other psychosocial factors improved as well from pre- to postdetoxification (e.g., employment increased and needle use decreased). During the 6-month evaluation, at least 41% reported engaging in formal inpatient or outpatient treatment; another 25-33% reported attending self-help groups. Engaging in formal treatment (at least 7 days duration) was associated with significantly better outcome. Nevertheless, pre- to postdetoxification changes were significant and robust for the entire study sample. These findings demonstrate that brief inpatient detoxification is followed by reduced drug use over several months and is accompanied by substantial treatment-seeking behavior. Thus brief detoxification may serve as an effective harm-reduction intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Length of Stay / trends*
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome