A narrative review of outcome measures used in drug and alcohol inpatient withdrawal treatment research

Publication Name

Drug and Alcohol Review


Issues: Assessing drug and alcohol inpatient withdrawal treatment programs is important, as these represent a first step of treatment among people with alcohol and drug problems. However, there are many ways of measuring outcomes making it difficult for service providers to decide which domains and methods to use. This narrative review aims to clarify frequencies of the domains and methods used to assess withdrawal treatment outcomes. Approach: We reviewed published studies that examined outcomes of inpatient drug and alcohol withdrawal treatment. The types of outcome measures used and the frequency of use were summarised. Key Findings: The review showed that assessment of withdrawal treatment outcomes goes beyond traditional abstinence measures. Outcomes mainly focus on biological and psychological outcomes, with social outcomes rarely measured. Even within outcome domains (e.g., cravings), there were many assessment methods. Implications: The review provides service providers with an outline of common outcome domains and measures. Given the importance of social functioning to recovery from alcohol and drug problems, greater emphasis on such measures is desirable. Future research could develop greater consensus on outcome measures for use in withdrawal management services to facilitate clarity around factors associated with treatment success. Conclusion: Outcome assessment in withdrawal treatment goes beyond abstinence to include holistic measurement of biological, psychological and some social outcomes; but more work needs to be done to cohere the different assessment methods and broaden the scope to include social functioning.

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