Remote Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal: A Pilot Study
Alcoholism is one of the most common and deadly substance use disorders in Canada. Many people seek alcohol withdrawal management or ‘detox’ as the first step in the treatment of alcoholism. Unfortunately, the COVID‑19 pandemic has made accessing treatment more difficult as many addiction treatment centres are closed to promote social distancing and patients may be reluctant to seek care due to the risk of infection. Previous studies have demonstrated that alcohol withdrawal can be safely managed in the outpatient setting, however, to our knowledge, no studies have considered employing telemedicine (use of phone and video technology to assess patients remotely) to manage alcohol withdrawal. In this study, we propose to assess whether it is feasible to treat alcohol withdrawal using telemedicine. We plan to recruit 30 participants with alcohol addiction requiring medical withdrawal management. Participants will initially be assessed for eligibility. Clinical nurses will then monitor patients remotely using a standardized withdrawal assessment tool to guide treatment. Outcome measures will include retention in treatment, development of withdrawal complications, and patient satisfaction. Finding a new way to provide alcohol detoxification remotely using telemedicine could increase the number of patients able to access care, decrease the risk of coronavirus transmission, and improve patient satisfaction. If this intervention is found to be feasible, it could also be used to provide alcohol withdrawal management for people in remote parts of Canada without access to addiction medicine services.