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Alcohol and other Drug Withdrawal at Home

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

For people who are dependent on alcohol or other drugs and who want to safely reduce or stop their use, withdrawal is an important step along the way.

While some people choose to work with in-patient withdrawal services, people living in the Perth metropolitan area may choose to withdraw at home with support from St John of God Health Care's Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN).

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network Team Members
The Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN) team.
The Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN) is a free, professional service that provides an effective treatment option for people choosing to safely reduce or cease their substance use.

"DAWN supports people to manage their withdrawal from alcohol or drug use in their home environment," says DAWN's Manager Liz Wilson-Taylor.

An experienced Clinical Nurse Specialist will  work closely with the consumer, their doctor and family member/support person and make regular visits at the home throughout the withdrawal.

Why Do People Need Medical Support To Withdraw From Alcohol or other Drugs?

"Ceasing a substance abruptly and without medical support - without medication and advice - can be dangerous, both physically and psychologically," says Liz. "This is especially true for alcohol."

What's Involved?

The withdrawal is planned with the client, their support person and GP with a commencement date negotiated with all parties.

A DAWN Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) visits each day from Monday to Friday for the first week to monitor withdrawal symptoms and to assist in relapse prevention as well as with the medication regime if required.

Telephone support via the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) will be organised for the person over the weekend.

Further visits will depend on ongoing assessment.

The DAWN CNS also keeps the client's GP informed throughout the withdrawal and deals with any possible emergencies or issues along the way.

"The service supports people to reach their goals and to make changes that are realistic and sustainable," says Liz. "We encourage self-determination and independence to reduce harm and promote a safer lifestyle."

DAWN is mindful of the cultural, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of individuals.

What Does The Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

  • Coordinates the withdrawal
  • Provides support for the patient, family and/or significant others
  • Ensures a safe environment
  • Keeps in regular contact with the patients' GP
  • Monitors withdrawal symptoms
  • Monitors the use of any medication prescribed to assist with withdrawal
  • Explores relapse prevention strategies and
  • Explores options for ongoing support with the patient (including counselling and rehabilitation) and facilitates referral to the service that best meets their needs.

Who Can Do A Home-Based Withdrawal?

"We work with people from all walks of life with alcohol and/or other drug dependence or who are regular users," says Liz. "As everyone is different, a nurse will discuss an individual's circumstances with them to ensure home based withdrawal is the best treatment option."

With the exception of tobacco, DAWN will support people to withdraw from any drug, and people with medical or mental health conditions are welcome.

"It's important that people have some support and the nurse will ask potential patients about this as part of a comprehensive assessment," says Liz.

Private health insurance is not needed. The costs that may be incurred are a visit to the GP and medications for withdrawal.

How Long Does It Take?

"This depends on the situation and what substance or substances the person is withdrawing from," says Liz.

Once a person is assessed, the nurse will talk to them about how long they can expect to be supported.

"Change is possible and can be sustained," says Liz. "Withdrawal is a step in the process."

What If Home-Based Withdrawal Is Not The Best Option?

DAWN will discuss other options if home-based withdrawal is not the safest treatment for an individual. Says Liz, "We can facilitate referral to other agencies and services that best suit a person's needs."

More Information

DAWN St John of God Health Care Subiaco Hospital Logo
DAWN  can initially see people in clinics across the Perth metropolitan area, as well as the main office based in Subiaco.

The DAWN Youth Service has nurses co-locating at headspace Osborne Park and headspace Fremantle who provide holistic counselling, including harm-reduction support to either reduce or cease their substance use for young people aged 12 - 25 years with a mental health and AOD issue..


 "We're often in the community seeing people, so it's a good idea to contact us by calling our Subiaco office," says Liz.

For more information, please call DAWN on (08) 9382 6049, email dawn@sjog.org.au or visit www.sjog.org.au/dawn

For more information about withdrawal and detoxification services in Western Australia, visit the Green Book Directory of Alcohol and other Drug and Mental Health Services in WA at www.greenbook.org.au - or call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 9442 5000 (country callers 1800 198 024) for free, confidential information, counselling and referral 24/7.

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