Background: The aim of the study was to examine the practicability and implementation efficacy of an alcohol outpatient detoxification model and the concomitant ‘motivational’ psychotherapeutic approach. Method: This was an open prospective study to examine the implementation efficacy, practicability and medical safety of a novel psychotherapy-based, integrated outpatient detoxification model in alcohol-dependent patients. Patients were carefully screened for relevant neuropsychiatric disorders and other exclusion criteria and then seen on a daily outpatient basis for 5–7 days. Patients received psychotropic or other medication, if necessary (CIWA-A score >16). Beside management of withdrawal symptoms, psychotherapeutic interventions were conducted to motivate the patient for further alcohol therapy. Results: Of 557 patients screened 331 entered the program. For medical reasons 226 patients had to be admitted for inpatient detoxification, 122 patients in a special alcohol unit, 101 patients in a general hospital. 198 (60%) of the outpatients received psychotropic medication during treatment. 312 (94%) of these patients successfully completed treatment. 301 (91% of the initial sample) patients entered a consecutive 3-month motivational phase of a two-phase alcohol treatment program. 139 (46%) patients successfully completed the 1-year consecutive outpatient treatment. Conclusions: Outpatient detoxification, at least in a highly structured frame, can be considered as a safe and efficient therapeutic approach. The data of this study also indicate that psychotherapeutic interventions and motivation for further abstinence and treatment may work in alcohol-dependent patients on an outpatient basis. Further controlled trials are necessary to compare the effects of outpatient versus inpatient withdrawal.

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