Drug Court Tests Recovery App for Smartphones

    smartphone app getting tested as recovery toolResearchers are pilot-testing a smartphone application in an adult drug court program in Massachusetts to find out if it can help participants be more successful.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Feb. 9 that the smartphones used in the four-month pilot in the Ayer Concord Drug Court Program (ACDCP) in Mass. will be loaded with software tools developed by the university’s Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS). The goal of the software, dubbed Addiction-CHESS (A-CHESS), is to help users manage their recovery.

    Features include online access to counselors and peer support, ways to track milestones, GPS-based alerts to let users know they’re near a past site of alcohol or drug use, and a “panic button” that will place a call for help if the user is experiencing cravings or triggers associated with past substance use.

    In the drug court pilot, researchers will evaluate how much the A-CHESS tools are used, which are used most frequently, and whether they appear to affect success rates.

    “Our primary hypothesis is that A-CHESS will improve competence and autonomy, which are important to help individuals succeed in drug court treatment,” said David H. Gustafson, Ph.D., who is leading the A-CHESS study.

    Hilary Curtis, who directs the ACDCP drug court program, said the drug court team was excited about the pilot, which will serve 30 individuals. “Being able to reach out during times of risk can be a key factor in maintaining sobriety, and this tool can make that call for help much easier,” she said.

    The pilot is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and supplements a larger, five-year grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to develop and test the novel A-CHESS software.


    By A. Thomas McLellan PhD and Kimberly C. Kirby PhD
    February 2011
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