Clinical trial findings have determined a new smartphone app may help people overcome alcoholism – promoting abstinence from and lessening risky drinking behaviors among those using A-CHESS. The app’s name stands for Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System.
Alcoholism is a general term used to describe problems with alcohol, specifically the compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and occupation.
Alcoholism is medically considered a disease as it’s an addictive illness. In psychiatry several other terms have been used to describe the condition: alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol use disorder which have slightly different definitions.
According to the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.
Recovery from alcoholism can be a lifelong struggle and require various modes of treatment: counseling, medication, and in some cases a prolonged stay in a facility. The clinical research in Health Day suggests that using the app A-CHESS could be extremely beneficial when used as a part of ongoing treatment for alcoholism.
The clinical trial involved about 350 participants who successfully completed treatment for alcoholism in five residential programs — three in the Midwest and two in the northeastern United States. In the weeks prior to their release, half the patients were given a smartphone with the A-CHESS app. Their counselor then helped them program the app to provide custom support.
The app can be tailored to the individual needs of the user in order to help each person cope with their degree of alcoholism. A-CHESS issues daily supportive messages, asks questions designed to help counselors assess the person’s struggle with sobriety, provides access to online support groups and counselors, and even tracks the location of the user and issues an alert when they are within vicinity of a bar or liquor store.
A-CHESS also has a panic button feature that gives a recovering alcoholic instant access to distractions, issues reminders or alerts them to nearby support.
Recovering alcoholics who used the A-CHESS smartphone app were 65 percent more likely to abstain from drinking up to a year following their release from an addiction treatment center when compared to those who left without the supportive application.
By the end of the year, about 52 percent of patients using A-CHESS had remained consistently alcohol-free, compared with about 40 percent of patients who received traditional support.
Users significantly reduced episodes of risky drinking – the consumption of four or more drinks for men, three or more for women during a two-hour period. They experienced half the risky drinking days – about 1.4 days on average versus 2.75 days for the comparison group members.
Lead author David Gustafson, a professor of industrial engineering and preventive medicine at the University of Wisconsin says, “These sort of systems have enormous potential. They are going to allow us to turn around not only addiction treatment, but the whole field of health care.”
There are many apps on the market intended to help alcoholics, but A-CHESS is the first to undergo a large-scale randomized clinical trial to test its effectiveness. Unfortunately, it is currently not available to the general public and is expensive to operate – costing $10,000 per 100 patients.
A company is being formed to commercialize A-CHESS, however, and the app could soon become available to the public through online Android and Apple stores.
[Photo Credit: Imagens Evangélicas]