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June 15, 1979

Detoxification of Alcoholics-Reply

JAMA. 1979;241(24):2597-2598. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290500011003

Rather than calling this approach nonmedical, others and I prefer the term "nondrug" detoxification. Although physicians and nurses are not on our detoxification premises except for brief times, there is medical input:

  1. A brief drinking and medical history is taken by trained paraprofessionals.

  2. The staff members monitor each patient's vital signs regularly.

  3. Patients are referred to a nearby emergency department for any problems that cannot be managed.

  4. A nurse and a physician are affiliated with the detoxification center and are on call and present daily to advise about any special problems.

Regarding Dr Rix's point 1: Our staff had slowly convinced our nearby emergency department staff, whenever possible, to avoid giving our alcoholic patients psychoactive drugs. Most of the few who were hospitalized from that group probably did receive psychoactive drugs during their hospital stay. However, as we point out in our article, in