Developers of a mobile app have found that their product may help to cure alcoholism and that the app could serve as additional guidance after in-patient treatment. The study shows that those who use the mobile app, had less drinking days after their treatment compared to those who did not use the app.
The mobile app, developed by David Gustafson, director of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, allows patients to press a panic button and sound alerts are given when patients are near bars or taverns. It also features periodic questions, asked by text message or voicemail. Depending on the answers that are given, the mobile app automatically notifies a counselor nearby, who can give the patient extra guidance. While waiting for the counselor, the mobile app gives the patient relaxation techniques to keep their mind off alcohol.
Mark Wiitala participated in Gustafson’s study and states the mobile app is a life-saver. Every time Wiitala needs an emotional boost, the app allows him to immediately connect to others, who are going through the same, as well as professional help. “It is an amazing tool,” he says and admits he still uses the app.
The mobile app was tested among 271 adults who received treatment at a center. Some of the patients were assigned to use the mobile app for a period of eight months, while others were only assigned to undergo follow-up guidance. The results of the study show that 78 percent of those who used the app, remained sober for a period of 30 days, compared to 67 percent of those who received the usual follow-up guidance. The study was prolonged to 12 months, resulting into the same trend continuing. The mobile app did not function as a substitute for follow-up guidance. It is an additional tool that may help cure alcoholism.
Now that the study has proved that a mobile app can add to treatment for alcoholism, Gustafson says that his product is being commercially developed at the moment and will soon be available for all centers in the U.S. For now, the mobile app is named A-CHESS.
Gustafson says, “It is great that the mobile app can help those who are fighting alcoholism. Many people say that they do not need treatment once they have received treatment at a facility. They think that they are cured, but 75 percent starts drinking within one year.” Gustafson adds that the mobile app is a low-key way of guidance, without requiring patients to attend meetings. “Patients have the ability to talk to others, who are going through the same thing. I believe this will make a big difference. Also, the panic button was used a lot more than I expected and it is great that it immediately alarms a counselor,” he said.
Director of the addiction medicine program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago Gail Basch says, “It is exciting to see technology-based tools in addition to treatment, prevention and education. While it may not help to cure alcoholism by itself, the mobile app will definitely help in some way.”
By Diana Herst