Smartphone App Could Help People in Recovery Cut Down on Drinking

A smartphone app may help people in recovery from alcohol abuse to cut down on “risky drinking”—having more than three or four alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period, a new study finds.

Using the app also increased the chance that people recovering from alcohol abuse would totally abstain from drinking, Reuters reports. The app has guided relaxation techniques. It sends an alert when a person is near a bar or other place that could be risky to their recovery. The app includes a “panic” button that connects with a person’s supporters and other app users, and has games to help distract from cravings.

Only one in four people recovering from alcohol abuse abstains from drinking in the first year of recovery, according to study author David Gustafson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He reported his findings in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study included 349 adults leaving rehabilitation centers for alcoholism. One group received normal post-rehabilitation treatment, while the other group received normal treatment plus a smartphone with the app, called the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS). They were able to use the app for eight months.

The researchers asked participants to report how many days within the past month they engaged in risky drinking. After one year, participants who didn’t use the app reported an average of three days of risky drinking in the past month, compared with about one day for those who had the app.

About 52 percent of those who had the app didn’t drink at all one year later, compared with 40 percent of those who didn’t have the app. According to Gustafson, the app is being used by more than a dozen treatment agencies, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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    Phillip Bettin

    March 27, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I understand the recent respondents concern for the misuse of the term “recovery” in this article, I suppose that people in recovery from a heart attack still have symptoms and ongoing issues, people in recovery from cancer are not necessarily cancer free at this moment, but “recovering” from cancer, in alcohol recovery the term is used to identify people who no longer use or abuse drugs or alcohol either illicit or licit drugs or alcohol. So medically probably right but for recovering people “wrong” terminology, it might be more about using the app for lessening drinking amounts and episodes in a harm reduction model. Phil

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    Rich Fleming

    March 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Difficult to accept your use of the words “in recovery” when referencing alcohol abusers. Seems to be a very incongruent use of the word and confusing to families and the general public , that come to accept ” recovery” as a concept where the patient is symptom free. Continued use of the substance regardless of the level of impairment seems to me disqualifies someone from the use of the word recovery. Further, diminishes the accomplishment of the individual that has been able to achieve and sustain ongoing abstinence .

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    Arthur Farkas

    March 27, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I am appalled at your headline on this posting. People who are drinking are not in “recovery”. The word recovery is reserved for people who are abstinent. This app may help alcohol abusers who are trying to do controlled drinking, and that is a perfectly good harm reduction outcome. But to say that the app helps people in recovery drink less is totally misrepresent what recovery is about.

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    March 27, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    What is the name of the app????

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