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Self-detoxification by Opiate Addicts

A Preliminary Investigation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Michael Gossop*
Drug Dependence Clinical Research and Treatment Unit, The Maudsley Hospital and The Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Malcolm Battersby
Drug Dependence Clinical Research and Treatment Unit, The Maudsley Hospital and The Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
John Strang
Drug Dependence Clinical Research and Treatment Unit, The Maudsley Hospital and The Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX


A study of 50 opiate addicts attending a London service for treatment of drug dependence found that 47 subjects had previously made at least one attempt at self-detoxification. These subjects reported 212 previous attempts. Although 30 subjects reported having managed to complete at least one attempt, the success rate per episode was low (24%). One of the most commonly reported methods, used by 28 subjects, involved an abrupt cessation of opiates (‘cold turkey’). Of the drugs used in their attempts at self-detoxification, benzodiazepines were reported by 24 subjects and opiates by 20. Practical strategies such as distraction and avoidance were also used. Self-help detoxification materials for opiate addicts might be useful.

Copyright © 1991 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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