#Alcohol #Addiction – There’s an App for that…Apparently?

“Hey, there’s an App for that” – is a common and much-used phrase these days. But how much of this techno wizardry is really much more than a gimmick?

Many of these ‘apps’ are often little more than ‘click-bait’ engines, designed to keep you attached to and interacting with your smartphone. Some are nothing more than a lucrative form of income generation for commercial organisations.

So can addiction interventions be really be delivered electronically, as opposed to in person by a fellow human being? I suppose the simple answer is… it depends who you ask. Organisations, commercial or otherwise, who have any vested interest in the technology will clearly answer yes to the question.

It’s sad but, most of the technology promotion and adoption, irrespective of any organisational origin, is highly likely to have been driven by financial factors. An ‘app’ will always be cheaper than employing a human being.

In the field of addiction support services, due to reduced funding and the associated logistical considerations, personalised advice via computer or mobile devices is becoming ever more prevalent.

But how effective is this type of intervention and do digital alcohol interventions work? – This is a question being asked by many and one recently examined by Russell Webster in his Drugs & Crime Blog. In his post (see here), Russell reports on the Cochrane Review which was published about this topic and offers two overall conclusions:

  1. Personalised advice using computers or mobile devices may help people reduce heavy drinking better than doing nothing or providing only general health information.
  2. Personalised advice through computers or mobile devices may make little or no difference to reduce drinking compared to face-to-face conversation.

See the free DrinkAware app (below) as an example.

The use of technology, where no human intervention is available (for whatever reason) is partly laudable however; my concern is that too many responsible for providing addictions recovery support will see the ‘app’ approach as the ‘affordable’ option. The underlying questions for me are – how long will our Govt continue trying to provide our healthcare services on the cheap? In addition and as a society, for how long are we prepared to let that happen?