There are apps that can help you do just about anything, from shopping to losing weight. A new study reports that an app is also successfully helping people who are in recovery from alcohol addiction stay sober.
The study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison utilized the app, known as A-CHESS (Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System). It sends out alerts to users whenever they are in close proximity to a bar or other drinking establishment, provides guided relaxation exercises and offers a panic button that can instantly connect people with either key support partners or fellow users.
David Gustafson, creator of the app, says it’s the culmination of three decades of work. Gustafson, who also served as the lead author for the study, says that just one quarter of people in alcohol recovery manage to abstain from drinking throughout their first year of sobriety. It’s long been known that the key to sober success is ongoing support and aftercare treatment. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous exist to increase the likelihood that those who take the first steps of sober living continue their journey. But the truth is that once a person walks out of rehab support options are limited, and the majority of people are completely on their own.
The study tracked 349 adults recovering from alcohol abuse. Each participant had completed rehab treatment and then was randomly placed into a study group. One group received standard post-rehab treatment only. The second group was given standard treatment, plus a smartphone loaded with the app, which they used for eight months.
Throughout the study participants were periodically asked to share how often they had been high-risk drinkers, which was defined as three to four alcoholic drinks in a two hour time span. One year later participants in the group without the app reported three days of risky drinking over the previous 30 days. Participants in the group with the app reported one day of risky drinking during that same time span.
The app was also linked to better rates of total sobriety. While 40 percent of the non-app group managed to stay completely alcohol-free at four month, eight month and 12 month milestones, 52 percent of the app group met these 100 percent sober marks.
Gustafson admits that the study has limitations and needs more study to prove its effectiveness across all demographics. Nevertheless, it represents an exciting step forward in providing people with cost-effective and available support treatment. Of all the things a mobile app could do, surely helping someone find and maintain sobriety ranks near the top.