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Addict Behav. 2002 Jul-Aug;27(4):575-84.

Self-detoxification attempts among methadone maintenance patients: what methods and what success?

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  • 1National Addiction Centre, Maudsley Hospital/Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK.


In a study of patients attending a methadone maintenance clinic in South London, 66 of 114 (58%) had previously attempted to detoxify themselves from opiates without medical assistance. The total number of self-detoxification attempts was 237, an average of 3.6 attempts per individual. Forty subjects (61%) reported attempting self-detoxification with the help of drugs or alcohol. The drugs most commonly used were diazepam, alcohol, and cannabis. The most commonly reported reasons for attempting self-detoxification were "fed-up with the lifestyle" (61%) and "for their family" (12%). The reasons given for why patients had decided to detoxify themselves rather than access treatment services included 23% who reported that "they could cope on their own and that they didn't need any help." The short-term success rate (abstinent for at least 24 hours) was moderate, at 41% (97/237). Patients who had been unsuccessful were asked why their last self-detoxification attempt had not resulted in abstinence, with 27% reporting that they were "tempted to use again" and 23% reported that they "didn't know why they started using again." The prevalence of both attempts and success suggests that, for some opiate users, self-detoxification may be a pathway to abstinence.

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