Rehab counselors are working hand-in-hand with the latest technology in their efforts to help recovering substance abusers. From phone apps to computerized treatment, care for alcoholics and drug addicts has gone high tech. Here is a look at four treatment methods that are helping in rehab.
The Carilion Addiction Recovery Research Center, a part of Virginia Tech, has studied the effectiveness of computerized treatment. Dr. Warren Bickel, in charge of the center, put a team together that developed a program to help patients become fluent in the language of recovery. A recent study showed that patients using the computerized therapy showed better retention of the material and required less time from counselors that other groups in the research. This treatment model has shown two big benefits: more people can be helped than happens when they need to wait for a counselor to find a slot open for a therapy appointment, and the cost is much less than one-on-one therapy between a patient and a counselor.
The computerized therapy program doesn’t replace counselors. Instead it handles the routine information that all patients must learn. This frees the counselors up to use their appointment time for creative problem solving. Counselors are supportive of new technology. For example, the staff at Sagebrush, a treatment program in Virginia, point out that incorporating technology gives them more time to use their expertise in creating an effective clinical program, individualized for each patient.
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The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded development of iHeal, an app that helps recovering alcoholics and addicts become aware of high stress levels, a common and direct cause of relapsing. The app, designed by Edward Boyer, uses a biosensor on a person’s wrist and an app on a smartphone. As reported in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, it measures heart rate, electrical activity in the body, skin temperature and body motion. If the app detects signs of stress, it sets off an alarm and asks the wearer to input data about low stressed they feel and if they have cravings.
A self-help tool for intervention for alcohol and drug abuse has been developed under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Currently used in India, Brazil, Mexico and Belarus, it has a tool that lets individuals test to see if they are living dangerously. The entire program is computerized and internet-based. If people who test themselves using the program discover they are in the danger zone, they can use the steps in the program to help themselves reduce or stop drinking.
App to Stop Drinking
An app called Stop Drinking with Andrew Johnson offers relaxation and stress management tips for those in recovery. Johnson is a UK-based hypnotists and stress management coach who uses visualization and relaxation techniques to induce a feeling of calm empowerment. Since it is available on smartphones and mobile devices, patients can get help at any time just by opening the app.
Standard treatment based on counseling is benefiting from the features available in new technology. It frees up the time of expert therapists and makes help available to a much wider group of people in need.