ECU addiction studies expert sceptical about Shalom House success claims

ECU addiction studies expert sceptical about Shalom House success claims

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

Stephen Bright from ECU said the Australian Story episode on Shalom House, which aired on the ABC this month detailing how former drug addict Peter Lyndon-James turned his life around and established the facility, 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 wrote in The Conversation last week.

“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.

“Without proper follow-up 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 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 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.