Withdrawal management

Withdrawal management (detoxification) refers to the safe discontinuation of the use of a substance of dependence. Withdrawal management services aid in the short-term cessation or reduction of heavy and/or prolonged alcohol or other drug use in a safe, supportive environment. Treatment is acute and provides short-term outcomes. Medications are sometimes used to help with symptoms of withdrawal. Supportive care is an essential component for successful withdrawal. Withdrawal alone does not produce lasting behaviour change and therefore planning for ongoing treatment, care and support is essential (Department of Health 2019). This type of treatment is not available for clients seeking treatment for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.

In 2019–20,

  • 1 in 10 (10% or 21,912) closed treatment episodes for a clients’ own alcohol or drug
    use involved withdrawal management as the main treatment type. Of these, most treatment episodes were for alcohol (47%), amphetamines (19%), or cannabis (12%) (tables ST.4, ST.33).

Client profile

In 2019–20, for clients whose main treatment was withdrawal management:

  • 62% of all clients were male and around 1 in 10 (11%) identified as Indigenous Australians
  • around a quarter (26%) of all clients were aged 30–39 and 25% were 40–49 (tables SC.15–17).

Treatment profile

Among withdrawal management treatment episodes as a main treatment type:

  • almost 4 in 5 treatment episodes (78%) lasted from 2 days to 1 month
  • most episodes (71%) ended due to an expected (planned) completion. 

Over the 10-year period to 2019–20:

  • the proportion of closed withdrawal management episodes lasting 2 days to 1 month rose from 69% in 2010–11 to 74% in 2019–20
  • median treatment episode duration has remained stable at 8 days since 2011–12 (tables ST.12, ST.38, SE.24).


See reference list