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Are Electronic Treatment Interventions Effective in Curbing Drinking?

There is an app for pretty much everything these days. Though there are a number of them that may be helpful to people in recovery who have already undergone treatment and are seeking various levels of support in remaining sober, the research says that there is no electronic intervention or program that can help people to significantly cut back on alcohol for the long-term. According to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, though users of electronic programs may experience a small reduction in the rate of alcohol use in the first six months of the program, there was no significant evidence that the programs continued to be effective in helping users to manage their drinking for the long-term.

A number of different types of programs were included in the study:

  • Online delivery programs
  • Desktop programs provided in a clinical setting
  • Interactive voice response programs via telephone or computer
  • CD-ROM options
  • Mobile apps


The programs covered in the 28 studies reviewed by researchers for the report ranged from one-time interventions in which the user would input personal data about alcohol use and the program would deliver a comparative analysis with peer use, to longer-term options that used goal setting and offered more intensive education about the negative effects of chronic drinking, according to HealthDay.

Eric Dedert from Duke University School of Medicine was lead researcher on the study. He said: “At this point, the effects of the available brief electronic interventions are small, and evidence that they help people to drink within recommended limits is lacking. However, electronic interventions for alcohol misuse hold significant promise, and there is a need to develop more intensive interventions.”

Laying the Foundation

Electronic programs may serve to make life easier in a number of ways, but when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction treatment and recovery, there is no way around it: A strong start in sobriety begins with intensive medical detox and addiction treatment provided by a professional program that lasts for as long as necessary for the person to stabilize in recovery. In the face of the medical disorder of addiction, only medical treatment will serve to effectively address the problem and provide the person with the long-term tools to live in sobriety.

Effective drug addiction treatment should include:

  • Medical detox: If withdrawal symptoms are an issue, medical care to ensure safety through detox is recommended. A professional substance abuse treatment program will have staff with the expertise to provide directed care.
  • Behavioral therapy: Learning about how current perspectives and behaviors may be impacting the ability to stay sober can help to create shifts that are long-lasting and empower a person to continually choose not to drink or get high.
  • Support system in recovery: Peers as well as therapists and other substance abuse treatment professionals who work with a client in a professional rehab program can provide an ongoing support system that offers accountability and encouragement.
  • Alternative and holistic treatment: Working with a life coach or sober companion, practicing yoga or meditation, and engaging in acupuncture or bodywork and massage – there are numerous different ways to further improve overall health and wellness, which can in turn improve a person’s ability to stay sober for the long-term
  • Aftercare and support: Continuing to engage in the therapeutic interventions that were working during treatment can be hugely beneficial to the client during the transition into independent, sober living.

Electronic Support

There are various apps and software programs that can be a positive part of people’s experiences in recovery once they have established themselves through professional treatment. These apps can help you connect to others in your local area who are also in recovery and who may be open to meeting for mutual support, find a 12-Step meeting, send you encouraging words of wisdom each day or throughout the day, and give you a handheld version of recovery literature that you can reference whenever you like. Some options include:

  • Sober Grid: A free app for android and Mac, Sober Grid lets you connect with others in your area who are also in recovery. You can remain anonymous, message people, post messages to a newsfeed, or send out an alert that you are in crisis and in need of immediate support.
  • AA Big Book and More: For those who are participants in AA, this app is free for Mac and lets users track their sobriety and read the AA Big Book. It also sends users uplifting messages of encouragement each day.
  • CassavaSM: If you’re looking for a meeting, this free app will connect you with a schedule of 150,000 current meetings. You can score each meeting you attend to keep track of the ones that work best for you, and track your progress in recovery while tracking the recovery activities you do each day. You can also look up daily reflections relevant to your current needs by using keywords.
  • SoberTool: This free app is available for Android and Mac users, and aids in relapse prevention. Users can learn how to identify the thoughts and emotions that may come before a relapse, and then connect with a reading related to the “triggering” experience they are facing, thus helping users to change their trajectory away from potential relapse and back toward sober stability. It also allows users to not only keep track of the time they have in sobriety but also how much money they have saved by avoiding drug and alcohol use.

What apps do you use to empower your recovery? Leave a comment and share the tools that work for you.

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