Treating drug addiction with psychotherapy could perhaps be considered the most human activity on the planet. Yet, it now seems technology is fundamentally changing the way we think about drug addiction and its treatment.
New apps, techniques, and gadgets are redefining drug addiction treatment and making it easier for millions of addicts to regain control over their lives. Here’s how technology is having an impact and shaping the future of treatments for substance abuse.
There are some traditional techniques of tackling substance abuse that have proven to be effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) are both well documented and backed by scientific research. However, a lack of resources and awareness could limit the potential of these psychotherapies.
Community-scale therapy sessions and awareness drives are common, but without adequate funding from authorities those who need help the most often miss out.
With this in mind, the National Institutes of Health commissioned a number of studies to examine if computer systems could help fill the gap and get assistance out to those in pain. The results of these studies were fairly encouraging.
One of the most promising techniques was computer-based training or CBT. A randomized trial on cocaine addicts and methadone users found that a computer training module helped boost the rate of abstinence from cocaine. The module included training sessions on how drugs affect behavior, handling peer pressure, solving health problems that are correlated to substance abuse, and improving decision-making skills to tackle reckless behavior. The rate of abstinence was increased from 17% to 36% through these computer-training sessions.
A similar web-based program called “Project Quit”, helped many users quit smoking.
Experts hope that similar computer programs and online training sessions could have a wider impact. Coupled with social media and online video streaming services, these programs could have a far-reaching effect.
Is there an app for that?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin designed an app that could offer therapy and personal support at the touch of a button. called Addiction–Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS), the app included audio relaxation and meditation guides as well as an alert system to keep addicts away from high-risk areas where they are likely to get access to drugs and alcohol. The app has a statistically significant 12% advantage over usual care.
Similar apps like CleanTime Counter and iSponsor help addicts keep track of their sobriety and find inspiration to keep going. Affordable and easily accessible mobile apps have the potential to change drug addiction treatment forever.
It seems that technology-assisted healthcare could actually augment the way we treat addicts in the near future.