A feasibility trial of an intervention in alcohol dependence for structured preparation before detoxification versus usual care: the SPADe trial results

Christos Kouimtsidis, Ben Houghton, Heather Gage, Caitlin Notley, Vivienne Maskrey, Allan Clark, Richard Holland, Anne Lingford-Hughes, Bhaskar Punukollu, Morro Touray, Theodora Duka

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Background: Individuals who are ‘moderately’ or ‘severely’ dependent consume alcohol at levels that are likely to have a severe impact on their own health and mortality, the health and behaviours of others (family members) and to have economic and social implications. Treatment guidelines suggest that treatment needs to be planned with medically assisted withdrawal (also referred to as detoxification), and aftercare support but outcomes are poor with low proportions engaging in after care and high relapse rates. An approach of structured preparation before alcohol detoxification (SPADe) puts an emphasis on introducing lifestyle changes, development of coping strategies for cravings, stress and emotions as well as introducing changes to the immediate family and social environment in advance of alcohol cessation. Such a pre-habilitation paradigm compliments the established treatment approach. The key research question was: can we design a large scale, randomised controlled trial (RCT) that will answer whether such an approach is more effective than usual care in helping individuals to maintain longer periods of alcohol abstinence? Methods: This is a pragmatic, parallel, two-arm, feasibility RCT comparing SPADe and usual care against usual care only in maintaining alcohol abstinence in adults with alcohol dependence receiving care in two community addiction services in London. Feasibility outcomes, exploration of primary and secondary clinical outcomes and health economic outcomes are analysed. The trial follows the guidelines of phase 2 of the Medical Research Council (MRC) for complex interventions. Results: We were able to recruit 48/50 participants during a period of 9 months. Retention in the trial for the whole period of the 12 months was 75%. Treatment compliance was overall 44%. Data completion for the primary outcome was 65%, 50% and 63% at 3, 6 and 12 months, respectively. The intervention group had more days abstinent in the previous 90 days at the 12 months (n = 54.5) versus control (n = 41.5). Conclusions: The results of this feasibility trial indicate that with the appropriate modifications, a full multicentred trial would be possible to test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a pre-habilitation approach such as the SPADe group intervention in addition to usual care against usual care only. Trial registration: Name of registry: ISRCTN; Trial Registration Number: 14621127; Date of Registration: 22/02/2017.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021


  • Alcohol dependence
  • Detoxification
  • Pre-habilitation
  • SPADe
  • Structured preparation

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