Smartphone app may help alcoholics on the road to recovery


There's an app for everything the (quite new) adage goes, whether it's identifying a song, tracking your spending habits, or photographing your food. But it doesn't end there - it turns out apps may have a more sober side. Called A-CHESS, a new app has been designed to keep recovering alcoholics on the wagon. Using emotive support facilities, GPS, and monitoring technology, A-CHESS has had promising results in reducing alcohol consumption among users. 

A clinical trial observed 350 participants recently released from rehabilitation centers, with 52 percent using A-CHESS remaining alcohol-free for the following year. Of those participants who received only traditional support methods, only 40 percent remained alcohol-free. Users of A-CHESS also experienced half the risky drinking days of those who did not.

 The app contains a range of support facilities, including GPS that triggered when the person was near a favorite bar. If it seemed that they were contemplating entering (such as if they stayed near the area), the app would play a pre-recorded confessional video of the patient recounting their experience with alcoholism or a recording of one of their children pleading with them not to drink.

"It does seem a little intrusive, but for people who are really battling with alcoholism, they need a lot of this type of monitoring and ongoing support," said Dr. Scott Krakower, a drug addiction specialist who was not associated with the study. "They do well in controlled settings, but when they leave the center and go back into their environment, they are at risk for relapse."

Krakower's analysis was supported by the researchers, who believe that apps could carve out a niche in broader healthcare. "These sort of systems have enormous potential," said the study's lead author David Gustafson, professor of industrial engineering and preventive medicine at the University of Wisconsin. "They are going to allow us to turn around not only addiction treatment, but the whole field of health care."

Unfortunately, A-CHESS is not yet available commercially - and the price to join the trial is high. "To join our research consortium, agencies pay $10,000 a year for access for up to 100 patients," Gustafson said.

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