OBJECTIVE: The study examined outcomes of patients enrolled in a
Veterans Affairs ambulatory detoxification program. METHODS: Descriptive
statistical data were collected by routine clerical processes at a VA
medical center. Patients' outcomes were operationally defined to include
completion of the detoxification program, dropout or discharge, or
re-enrollment in the program; admission to inpatient detoxification; and
referral to, entry into, and completion of substance abuse rehabilitation
after detoxification. Outcomes were determined for 517 of the 577 patients
consecutively referred to the program during nine months in 1995. Patients
met established criteria for mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
RESULTS: Of the 517 patients, 453 successfully completed outpatient
detoxification. Twenty patients dropped out, 19 were discharged, 37
re-enrolled, and 25 were admitted for inpatient detoxification. Of the 453
patients who completed outpatient detoxification, 434 were referred for
further treatment; 415 entered and 322 completed the next treatment phase.
CONCLUSIONS: The completion rate for patients in the outpatient
detoxification program and rates for continuing and completing further
treatment were higher than in previous studies. Measures of poor short-
term outcome (dropout, re-enrollment, and admission to inpatient
detoxification) also compared favorably with previous studies. Unique
factors contributing to outcomes included systematic screening, medical
protocols for detoxification, psychosocial therapies, program-supported
housing, and attention to patient satisfaction.