BACKGROUND General psychiatrists have recently been encouraged to provide treatment to heroin addicts, including in-patient detoxification. No comparison has previously been made of specialist versus general psychiatric in-patient care.
METHOD During a randomised study of cue exposure, 186 opiate addicts were also randomised to either specialist in-patient (DDU; n = 115) or general psychiatric (GEN; n = 71) wards in the same hospital.
RESULTS From pre-treatment (post-randomisation) onwards, patient outcomes differed across the two in-patient settings. Of the original randomised sample, significantly more DDU than GEN subjects accepted their randomisation (100 v. 77%), were subsequently admitted (60 v. 42%), and completed in-patient detoxification (45 v. 18%). Of patients admitted, more DDU than GEN patients completed detoxification (75 v. 43%). During seven-month follow-up, of those 43 patients who reached the end of treatment, significantly more ex-DDU than ex-GEN subjects were opiate-free.
CONCLUSIONS From pre-treatment onwards, significant differences in process and outcome were found after allocation to treatment on either DDU or GEN. Further randomised studies are required to replicate and explain these findings.