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Using apps to fight drug abuse

Posted on 12-10-15 in Drug Addiction

Using apps to fight drug abuse

Apps! Where would we be without these small, single-purpose programs? There’s apps to wake you up in the morning, get you to work on time, remind you of your meetings and track what you eat during the day. Apps can buy movie tickets, take-out food and even help you purchase a new car.

Surprisingly, apps can also help with drug abuse. Although not a replacement for therapy and treatment, apps can help addicts find more information about their disease, build support groups and manage their moods and cravings. Some apps even act as warnings against the dangers of drug addiction.

Fighting addiction with apps

There’s a variety of apps available for both the Android and iOS platforms that deal with drug and substance abuse, ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous’ “12 steps AA Companion” to programs that allow users to track how long they’ve been sober. Some apps make information about treatment more accessible. Earlier in December, United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Booth Goodwin, launched a website and an app called The Call WV. The app includes a map which directs the user to the closest place to find help for addiction. It also provides information on treatment options, recovery housing, meetings and resources to prevent drug use.

Squirrel Smart Recovery is an app aimed at recovering addicts that allows them to track moods, stressors and drug cravings. Developed by Brandi Spaulding, a graduate student at Ohio State University, the Android app also allows users to create a, “recovery circle” of 10 trusted contacts so the user can stay in touch with their support network. A “panic button” feature sends an alert to everyone in the recovery circle if the user is feeling especially stressed and needs help.

Ice Effex takes a more direct approach. This app, released in September 2015, shows the effects methamphetamines have by digitally altering the user’s picture. The program adds facial scarring, blisters and lines to the user’s face. Users can see what they would look like after three, six and a year of meth use.

Both the scientific and treatment communities are always looking for new tools to use against drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, recently offered a challenge to software developers. NIDA is offering $100,000 in prizes to developers who can create good tools for addiction research by using Apple Inc.’s ResearchKit, an open-source software environment developed by Apple to create apps for medical research.

Apps can only do so much

Apps should never be seen as a replacement for therapy and treatment, however. Mary Andres, Ph.D., an associate professor of clinical education at the University of California, cautioned against this line of thinking. “You can’t replace the value of face-to-face identification and the phenomena that happens in group,” Andres said in an interview with “You’re not going to get all that in a tweet. You’re going to get that only by having a three-dimension experience with another person.”

The Sovereign Health Group is a leading treatment provider for addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis. We use scientifically-proven, innovative and cutting-edge techniques to treat both addiction and the underlying mental health problems that so often drive substance abuse. We accept most private insurers. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction or mental health disorders, please contact us through our 24/7 helpline. One of our experts can start you on the road to recovery today.