How Effective is an Addiction Recovery App?
Thousands of people today use addiction recovery apps to help them keep on track with their substance use disorder recovery, or to correct unhealthy relationships with drugs or alcohol before they can progress into an addiction. These apps have been proven effective for staying sober, but that effectiveness depends on the user’s individual situation and needs. An addiction recovery app is meant to be a tool to support recovery, not a complete substitute for professional detox and rehab treatment. Read on to learn more about these apps, how they work, and who can benefit from these kinds of addiction recovery resources.
How Does an Addiction Recovery App Work?
Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that you dedicate yourself to every day, and through the ups and downs of everyday life, mobile apps can be an easy and convenient addiction recovery resource to support you whenever you need help staying sober.
But how exactly does an addiction recovery app work?
- It offers constant access and support: Most people have their smartphones on them at all times, day and night. Therefore, if you have an addiction recovery app on your phone, you will have instant help at your fingertips whenever you encounter an emotional challenge or substance use trigger.
- It provides privacy: Sometimes you may want addiction recovery support without having to go to a meeting, seek out a therapist, or call friends or family members. While it is important to be open about your recovery and ask for help from the people in your life, it can also be nice to have a quiet and discreet resource to turn to when you are feeling the need for privacy or just need a quick boost.
- Most are available to anyone, anywhere: Not everyone has access to an aftercare program that offers addiction recovery resources, but everyone with a smartphone—regardless of their finances, location, or any other concern—can have and use an addiction recovery app. However, pricing of these apps can vary. Some are free, and some charge depending on the level of support provided. Some are offered as an inclusive part of a rehab program or primary care network, meaning you pay for them, but only as part of a larger program of treatment.
- They offer accurate, useful information: Most apps designed to support staying sober include information provided by addiction specialists who truly understand the disease, the experience of recovery, and what it takes to succeed. You can therefore count on the accuracy and efficacy of the facts and advice provided by these apps.
Not every addiction recovery app will provide the same kinds of support, and if you are not given the option of using an app provided by a rehab facility as a part of your aftercare treatment plan, you may want to try out more than one app to see which suits you best (although make sure to pay attention to fees, and don’t sign up for something that can’t be cancelled after a month or two if you aren’t sure whether it’s the right app for you).
Most addiction recovery apps include one or more of the following features:
- Automated text messages from counselors or from the app service that ask how you are doing, provide periodic inspiration, and generally prompt you to check in with yourself (or treatment providers, if needed)
- A panic button that you can use if you are in crisis and need immediate counseling or advice from a treatment professional
- Structured lessons and activities that guide you through a virtual treatment program
- Various ways to contact treatment providers for advice, to make appointments, to ask questions, and/or to keep them updated on your condition
- Weekly check-in questionnaires that will improve your self-awareness, and may be used to alert treatment providers if you are beginning to face more difficulty staying sober
- Daily check-in notifications that prompt you to record your emotional status once or several times a day, both for tracking and self-awareness purposes
- Access to social media networks that are just for individuals in addiction recovery; this provides peer to peer support and an accepting community of people who understand exactly what you are going through
- Writing exercises and gratitude lists
- Reminders about tasks or activities that support recovery success, such as attending meetings, forming and maintaining a healthy social support network, and keeping up with self-care
- 12-step specific support, such as nationwide meeting schedules and e-copies of 12-step literature, meditations, and prayers with highlighting and keyword search capability
- Suggestions for healthy coping techniques that you can use when feeling sad, angry, stressed, worried, triggered, etc.
- Daily inspiration via quotes and advice to keep you motivated
- Blogs and self-help videos from professionals and/or other individuals in recovery
- Professional guidance for setting goals and planning out the steps needed to achieve those goals, and regular check-ins to encourage you to complete each step
- Ways to track progress so you can see how far you’ve come and recognize when it is time to celebrate recovery milestones (which has been proven to improve recovery outcomes)
How Effective Are Recovery Apps?
Addiction recovery apps are still relatively new as an addiction recovery resource, but the research on their effectiveness has been encouraging so far. A study of an addiction recovery app called Seva, which was provided through primary health care providers, found that patients who used the app not only showed significant fewer drinking days and drug use days, they also showed improved quality of life and fewer hospitalizations. Another study showed that almost 80% of patients who were given the smartphone app A-CHESS immediately after alcohol addiction treatment were still using the system four weeks later. An additional study of A-CHESS found that patients who were given access to the app after treatment had almost a third less days of risky drinking (exceeding 3 drinks for women and 4 drinks for men in a two-hour time period) than patients who were not provided access to the app.
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Another way that these apps can be useful for relapse prevention is by providing patients with insight into their level of risk, so they can get help before they experience a lapse. Remember, one instance of using or drinking is just a lapse; a relapse is a return to chronic substance use. One lapse doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go back to full-time addiction treatment, but it is a very large and important warning sign that you need to evaluate what has knocked you off track, change your behaviors, improve self-care, and increase the number of meetings, counseling sessions, and/or other kinds of treatments in your life. The daily or weekly surveys offered by some apps allow patients to monitor themselves to look out for crises before they arrive, and may also allow treatment providers to monitor patients for the same red flags. The results of these surveys show up to a 91% accuracy for predicting lapse and relapse, which is great news. Anything that can be predicted can be prevented.
Most of all, using an addiction recovery app encourages self-awareness and good self-care. Recovery is like a living thing that requires ongoing attention and feeding. If you neglect it, it will fail to thrive, and you will encounter a crisis. You have to pay attention to your current condition, and take consistent care of your physical, mental, and emotional health in all areas of life in order to support a healthy recovery. A smartphone app that is always available and always on hand is an incredibly convenient and useful addiction recovery resource to make sure you are staying in touch with where you are and what you need to stay sober.
Who Can Benefit from an Addiction Recovery App
Some people who use an addiction recovery app are currently in an outpatient treatment program. While these patients are undergoing treatment and do have the support of counselors, group therapy, and other program interventions, they are also living outside of the treatment facility, and may need the extra recovery support during the time that they are away from treatment providers. Inpatient treatment is a 24-7 healing environment, but outpatient treatment is only part-time. By using an addiction recovery app, a patient can stay in touch with healing resources even when they are at home or alone. Using an app or apps allows the patient to experience life in the “outside” world while also having the security of virtual backup and support. These apps also reinforce the lessons they are learning in treatment, helping those skills and knowledge to become a more habitual part of the patient’s daily life.
People Who Have Completed Rehab
Most individuals benefiting from an addiction recovery app today are patients who have completed a rehab program, who use the app as a resource to keep them on track after leaving the treatment environment. Having a resource for information and inspiration, reminders about necessary recovery actions, contact with networks of other people in recovery, advice about healthy ways to cope with stress and triggers, and easy and immediate access to counselors, are all amazing ways to keep you in touch with what it takes to succeed in recovery even as you are transitioning back into independent living outside the rehab program. Addiction recovery apps can allow you to safely develop independence within recovery. The way a recovery app gently forces you to regularly check-in with yourself makes sure that you stay aware of how you are doing, and reminds you to keep taking care of yourself at a time in life when you no longer have daily face to face check-ins with treatment providers. These apps also make sure that you heed the warning signs and take action when you need additional support for staying sober.
Those at Risk for Drug or Alcohol Dependence
The best way to handle a substance use disorder is to recognize the signs of substance misuse or physical dependence very early on, before a severe addiction develops, and to then work to turn things around. This isn’t always easy to do for the average person, but having an addiction recovery app that can educate you, inspire you, and encourage you to remain self-aware and to use healthier coping techniques will allow you to change your patterns of thought and behavior to make sure that you don’t progress to a full-blown addiction that requires professional treatment. If you have any suspicions that you or someone you love may have an unhealthy relationship to substances that is not quite an addiction but may have the potential to become one, an addiction recovery app can be a convenient and affordable preventative measure.
Lasting Recovery Requires Treatment
Recovery apps can be a wonderful tool for addiction prevention, and a great addiction recovery resource during and after professional treatment, but they are not a suitable replacement for detox or rehab. If you have an addiction, then you need professional help. Apps are useful tools, but they are not powerful enough to serve as a single source of treatment. This is especially true if you have any mental health issues in addition to a substance use disorder. Studies of addiction recovery app usage show that patients with co-occurring mental health disorders are slightly less likely to use and benefit from the system than patients without a dual diagnosis. That is because these patients need treatment that focuses on both the addiction and the mental health issue simultaneously, but in specialized ways. Only getting addiction treatment will neglect half of what the individual needs for recovery.
Targeted recovery care provided by addiction and/or dual diagnosis specialists is the best way to build towards a happier, healthier future for anyone who struggles with a substance use disorder. If you need professional help for addiction, please call our 24-hour hotline at 800-483-2193, or consult our facility directory.