The huge majority of people with an alcohol dependence problem that is uncomplicated by serious mental illness or social chaos receive treatment in the community. Tackling Alcohol Together: The Evidence Base of a UK Alcohol Policy (Raistrick et al, 1999, chapter 9) provides strong evidence supporting the move towards briefer and community-based treatments, while at the same time recognising the need for intensive and in-patient treatments for people with more complicated problems. It follows that the traditional sequencing of care, which might be characterised as having four phases – assessing and engaging patients, detoxification, specific therapy and aftercare – is less tidy than it used to be. Detoxification is seen much more as a standalone procedure that should be undertaken when the patient is ready, rather than as a prerequisite of starting treatment. Of course, there are also instances where detoxification may be required as an expedience, for example during an unplanned admission into hospital, or where regular high levels of intoxication are a barrier to treatment. Equally, where the focus of treatment is on mental illness rather than alcohol dependence, then detoxification may well be viewed as a necessary first step.