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Study: Smartphone app may help people overcome alcoholism

In a study done by JAMA Psychiatry, and reported on by the Associated Press, researchers found that a smartphone app (A-CHESS) for recovering alcoholics has helped keep some from stepping off the wagon. These results point towards a positive direction for apps in the health and fitness sector.

The study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry, researchers studied 271 adult participants, who were followed for a year after they had in-patient treatment for alcoholism at one of several U.S. centers in the Midwest and Northeast. The results of this study came from these participants self-reporting on the year long process that included documenting if they resumed drinking. While the self-reported was factored in as a possible limitation for the study, there were addiction experts that helped to reaffirm the usefulness of this study given how A-CHESS provided immediate help to participants.

The A-CHESS smartphone app that participants were told to download featured asking periodic questions by text or voicemail about how the participant was doing, relaxation techniques and a panic button to notify peers nearby for help in their recovery process.

In the beginning the results did not show a big difference shown the participants and those that did not download the app. When a difference in the two groups did show up was when the study reached its eighth month. At the eight month marker 78% of smartphone users reported that they did not take a drink in 30 days, up from the typical 67% other patients report. Additionally, the average for risky drinking, which is defined as having more than four drinks over two hours for men and more than three drinks for women, was almost 1 ½ days for participants compared to 3 days for others.

In speaking about the app David Gustafson, the lead author and director of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said “We’ve been told that [relaxation techniques] makes a big difference.” Gustafson is also one of the developers for the A-CHESS app, which is still being developed for a commercial release.

It has been said that in the in U.S. alcohol abuse affects about 18 million people, with only 25% of those individuals who seek help continue to be abstinent for at least a year. While mobile apps won’t be the sole reason in helping raise the number of those seeking help to remain abstinent they can be a tool that can help. “A stand-alone mobile app may not be the answer, but one can see how it could fit in nicely,” said Dr. Gail Basch, director of the addiction medicine program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She continued on to say “A real-time tool, as well as reminders throughout the day, could be very helpful for a recovering brain.”

With how far smartphones and app developers have come with the technology we carry around every day these developments are exciting. We are already seeing smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and HTC integrating health and fitness functions into their smartphones with the release of the HTC One M8 and soon to be released Samsung Galaxy S5. Where we go next is anyone’s guess.

What do you think of the results of this study? What kind of apps would you like to see developed for your smartphone? Let us know by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Source: Associated Press, JAMA Psychiatry