App to help recovering alcoholics hailed success

31st March, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

A new app created to help recovering alcoholics stay sober has been shown to help reduce the number of days they drink, researchers claim.


A new app created to help recovering alcoholics stay sober has been hailed a success in initial trials

The app, called the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS), alerts users when they are in “risky” areas populated by bars and pubs and includes a panic button to connect them with a support network or friends and counsellors.

It also features a selection of “games” to distract users from their cravings as well as a messaging service which asks patients about their recovery.

A team of researchers from Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, carried recently published the results of a study looking at the efficacy of the app in continuing care for recovering alcoholics once they leave residential treatment.

They were lead by David Gustafson, the app’s developer, and lead author of the study.

The researchers randomly assigned 349 American adults leaving rehabilitation centres for alcoholism to one of two groups.

In the first group, 179 recovering alcoholics were provided with normal recovery care by counsellors. In another group, 170 people were given the A-CHESS app in addition to regular treatment by councellors for eight months.

Participants then reported monthly to researchers how much “risky drinking” they engaged in – that is, drinking more than three or four alcoholic drinks within a two-hour time period.

Researchers found that app users on average experienced fewer “risky drinking” days and a greater overall abstinence than those who did not use the app.

One year after the beginning of the study, participants in the group that didn’t receive the app reported about three days of risky drinking in the past month, whereas app users reported about one day. Meanwhile, 52%of the people in the app group claiming to be completely alcohol-free, compared to about 40% of people in the non-app group.

The study concludes that “the findings suggest that a multifeatured smartphone application may have significant benefit to patients in continuing care for alcohol use disorder”.

It was published in the JAMA Psychiatry online journal.

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