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Open Access Research

The appropriateness of the treatment setting for the inpatient post-acute treatment of alcohol dependence disorders in Switzerland

Astrid Rossegger1*, Anne Keller2, Michael Odenwald3 and Jérôme Endrass1

Author Affiliations

1 Psychiatric/Psychological Service, Criminal Justice System Canton of Zurich, CH-8090 Zurich

2 Forel-Hospital, Islikonerstr. 5, CH-8548 Ellikon

3 University of Constance, 78467 Constance, Germany

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International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2009, 3:16  doi:10.1186/1752-4458-3-16

Published: 1 July 2009



In Switzerland, a total of 1'000 patients a year are treated for alcohol-dependence in specialized institutions. Though the current literature suggests favoring outpatient treatment, whether outpatient or inpatient treatment is more efficient cannot be answered generally. For Germany, "AWMF"-treatment guidelines were formulated in order to treat patients with substance use disorders in the appropriate treatment settings. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that the majority of patients treated in the largest specialized institution for alcohol abuse treatment in Switzerland were treated in the appropriate setting.


All completed treatments conducted in the Forel-Hospital – the largest clinic of its kind in Switzerland – between the 1st of January 2004 and the 20th of December 2006 were included in the investigation (n = 915). Patient and treatment characteristics were gathered using the information from the PSYREC and act-info questionnaire. The AWMF criteria were operationalized on the basis of the questionnaire.


Applying the AWMF criteria resulted in the emergence of three groups: 73.7% of the study sample could clearly be assigned to the inpatient treatment group, and for 7.5% there was evidence supporting the allocation to an outpatient treatment setting. In 18.8% of the cases, however, the AWMF criteria did not allow an assignment to either of the treatment settings. Of the total sample, 18.5% of all patients apparently did not profit from the inpatient treatment setting, whereas for the vast majority (81.5%), a therapeutic progress was documented. In those patients who, according to the AWMF guidelines, did not need an inpatient setting, a larger proportion improved than in the group of the patients who needed an inpatient treatment in a specialized hospital. Furthermore, the logistic regression analyses revealed that the less severe the clinical state of a patient upon admittance, the higher the odds of improvement during the hospital stay.


The results serve as evidence that for at least three out of four patients treated in the investigated specialized institution, an inpatient treatment was appropriate. The principal reason for the necessity of an inpatient treatment setting was that this hospital population showed severe psychiatric, somatic or social irregularities. Only a very limited number of patients hospitalized in a specialized institution for the treatment of alcohol-related disorders can be treated in an outpatient setting.