DOI: 10.1111/dar.13741 ISSN:

Alcohol relapse prevention health care after alcohol withdrawal in New South Wales prisons, Australia: A patient file review

Yichao Liang, Jillian Roberts, Katherine Conigrave, Sobi Kim, Michael F. Doyle
  • Health (social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)



People who enter custody have complex health issues and comorbidities may include alcohol use disorders. We investigated clinical service provision and comorbidities recorded among individuals with a likely alcohol withdrawal syndrome within prison in New South Wales, Australia.


For this clinical case series review, electronic medical data were used to identify 50 people entering custody between August and November 2018 who likely had a treated alcohol withdrawal syndrome. We aimed for a 3:2 ratio of men and women, and a 1:1 ratio of Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal individuals. Data were extracted using a purposefully designed tool which included current alcohol withdrawal management, comorbidities and alcohol relapse prevention approaches used or recommended.


Thirty‐eight men and 12 women, of whom 22 were Aboriginal, were included. Twenty‐nine individuals (58%) reported a history of medical comorbidities. Thirty‐five (70%) reported using other substances and over half (60%) had a diagnosis of mental health disorders. Fourteen (28%) individuals had a record of receiving brief intervention and five (10%) of motivational interviewing. Twenty‐three individuals (46%) were referred to and seen by drug and alcohol clinicians. Only seven (14%) of the sample had pre‐release community care plans.

Discussion and Conclusions

Individuals treated for an alcohol withdrawal syndrome in New South Wales prisons have a high prevalence of medical comorbidities and other substance use. Clinical interventions focused on alcohol withdrawal management, and relapse prevention interventions were not recorded for most individuals. Service innovation and expansion are needed to increase the provision of post‐withdrawal management.

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