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Is Technology the Addiction Antidote?

A new study has found that using computerized treatment to aid people in recovery is not only effective in helping them stay sober, but also offers some fairly substantial money saving benefits.

Getting Technical

The findings from Warren Bickel, a professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and his team were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Their computerized treatment program helps addicts become fluent in the language of recovery. All the participants in the study received Suboxone to help manage their opioid addiction, were offered incentives for not using drugs and had access to therapists if needed. Only half of the participants were given the computerized treatment program.

Bickel found that not only did those in the computer treatment group have better overall retention, but that they required less time with a therapist. Because counselors have limited time slots available and often suffer from burn out due to the emotionally draining aspects of their profession, Bickel believes computer technology could both reduce counselor stress and allow for a more manageable load of clients.

“The shortage of treatment slots, the rampant counselor burnout, and the efficacy of the computer-based treatment could lead to new models of treatment,” explained Bickel.

“Imagine the counselor being able to offload the routine stuff to a computer and just handling the things that humans are really good at – coming up with creative solutions and developing new, tailored strategies. In the field of substance abuse, we haven’t really taken advantage of all the benefits technology can provide.”

Adding Applications to the Mix

But not only is technology beginning to be used in treating addiction, it’s also starting to be used as a means of stamping out doctor shopping. Researchers from the University of Toronto created an app which measures the strength of tremors, known as the most common clinical sign of alcohol withdrawal, as a means of halting those who faked them at emergency rooms in order to obtain benzodiazepine.

A new study on the app found only 17 percent of those sampled could fake a tremor that replicated the same frequency as someone genuinely suffering from alcohol withdrawal. However, the new app has only been tested on 80 patients so far, meaning further research still needs to be completed.
Learn more about the signs of addiction and treatment options.

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