The Advocate (Perth) - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Brookes

AN ad­dic­tion stud­ies ex­pert says there needs to be an anal­y­sis of the suc­cess rate at a drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion clinic tack­ling the ice epi­demic with a mil­i­tary-style boot camp in the Swan Val­ley.

Dr Stephen Bright from ECU said the Aus­tralian Story episode, which aired on the ABC ear­lier this month de­tail­ing how former drug ad­dict Peter Lyn­donJames’s turned his life around and es­tab­lished Shalom House, was com­pelling but not ev­i­dence his pro­gram worked.

“Shalom House calls it­self the strictest drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in the coun­try and is por­trayed as a mil­i­tary-style boot camp with a strong Chris­tian fo­cus,” he said.

“But ev­i­dence of its so-called ‘suc­cess’ is anec­do­tal at best.

“The re­al­ity is the re­ported 40 per cent dropout rate at Shalom House is no bet­ter than any other drug treat­ment ser­vice. In fact, it’s slightly worse.

“Data col­lected from drug treat­ment ser­vices in Aus­tralia for over a decade shows, on av­er­age, around 35 per cent of peo­ple drop out of main­stream treat­ment un­ex­pect­edly or are dis­charged be­fore com­ple­tion.

“Shalom’s un­sub­stan­ti­ated 50 per cent ‘suc­cess’ rate (80 per cent of the 60 per cent that didn’t drop out) is no more suc­cess­ful than any other avail­able ser­vice in Aus­tralia. And with­out proper fol­lowup of par­tic­i­pants af­ter they leave, there is no way any­one can say what the suc­cess rate re­ally is.”

Dr Bright said it was im­por­tant not to con­fuse a few pos­i­tive anec­dotes with real out­comes.

“When a treat­ment pro­gram is said to be ev­i­dence-based, it has been sub­jected to rig­or­ous sci­en­tific tri­als that show it works,” he said.

“Not just for a small num­ber of peo­ple, but for the ma­jor­ity of those with a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem.

Dr Bright said there needed to be government reg­u­la­tion of the al­co­hol and other drug treat­ment ser­vices sec­tor.

“There is no way of know­ing ex­actly how many pri­vate ser­vices are op­er­at­ing and no sys­tem­atic mon­i­tor­ing of what they do or their out­comes,” he said.

“Government-funded al­co­hol or drug treat­ment ser­vices, and pub­lic and pri­vate hospi­tal ser­vices, are at least re­quired to main­tain qual­ity stan­dards through es­tab­lished health ac­cred­i­ta­tion pro­cesses. But any­one can set up a pri­vate re­hab clinic, and the ABC has pre­vi­ously re­ported how some un­scrupu­lous op­er­a­tors prey on peo­ple who are des­per­ate for help and un­able to ac­cess the over­stretched, un­der­funded pub­lic sys­tem.”

Dr Bright said there was lit­tle ev­i­dence hard-line con­fronta­tional ap­proaches, such as boot camp style re­hab and in­ter­ven­tions, were ef­fec­tive.

“They may even be harm­ful to some peo­ple,” he said.

“The drug treat­ment field moved away from these types of in­ter­ven­tions more than 30 years ago be­cause we re­alised they just don’t work.”

Shalom House founder Peter Lyn­don James de­clined to com­ment on the claims on the grounds they were “un­in­formed”.

“Any­one mak­ing a com­ment based on a half-hour TV seg­ment and me­dia re­ports is not be­ing wise or con­struc­tive,” he said.

“Ev­ery re­sponse I make pro­vokes more un­in­formed comments by peo­ple who have not taken the time to check out the pro­gram them­selves.

“If they would come out to Shalom to look over our pro­gram with an open mind and al­low me to ex­plain how the pro­gram works, then they would be in a well-in­formed po­si­tion to help us with con­struc­tive feed­back in order to help us grow.

“If they can find faults and flaws in what we do or how we do it, I will do my best to take on board what is said and also try to do what I am do­ing bet­ter.”

Dr Bright said any­one con­cerned about a ser­vice could con­tact the Health Com­plaints Com­mis­sioner or Health Om­buds­man in WA.

Stephen Bright: Ev­i­dence of so-called suc­cess is anec­to­tal at best.

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