What are the chances that an “electronic friend” will be able to predict whether or not you are close to relapsing? There are amazing updates in the resources for substance abuse recovery that are available to you. Some of them are still in the works, and there are other smartphone applications that are cheap and available now for download to your Android or iPhone.
News of A-CHESS was published in 2013 in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment by Ming-Yuan Chih and others. Predictive Modeling of Addiction Lapses in a Mobile Health Application presents techno-speak describing the usefulness of a self-monitoring device that could estimate the success of a person’s recovery. The software utilizes an age-old invention called the phone and it works when the person uses the phone pad to input his feelings or actions. The software application downloaded to the phone then predicts whether or not the person is at risk for relapse. In the way that scientists have for assigning initials to everything under the S.U.N., this device was called A-CHESS for Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System, and it’s a baby of the research department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
A-CHESS was developed with the recovering alcoholic in mind. Its theoretical approach is to function based on the user’s self-reported progress, analyzing the responses or activities of the recovering addict who is managing their substance abuse recovery.
The published study began with 340 clients divided into two equal groups. The first group went into recovery after residential treatment only, and those in the second group completed residential treatment and then were issued their phones equipped with the A-CHESS software. Those with residential treatment only then experienced twice as many “risky drinking days” as those equipped with the A-CHESS software. One month after beginning substance abuse recovery, over 78 percent of them were still using their phones.
Predicting the Risks for Substance Abuse Recovery
The A-CHESS software required the user to answer questions on a weekly basis. They included:
- Have you used drugs or alcohol in the last seven days?
- If yes, would you like A-CHESS to notify your counselor?
- How have things been going in the past week – rate your sleeping (on a scale from 0-7)
- Rate your level of depression.
- Rate your drinking urges.
- Rate the number of risky situations.
- Rate your relationship troubles.
- Rate your confidence to stay sober.
- Rate your AA meeting attendance.
- Rate your involvement with spiritual activities.
- Rate your involvement with activities like school and work.
- Rate your time spent with family and friends.
If A-CHESS then calculated at least a 5 percent risk of relapse, it delivered a text message to the person in substance abuse recovery and warned them that relapse was imminent. It suggested alternative activities such as attending 12-step groups and even, preset with knowledge of the user’s preferences, it could suggest activities such as going for a run or a review of reasons to avoid relapse.
With promising results to date, including the ability to warn users away from geographical areas where their substance abuse recovery might be endangered—say if the person went to the vicinity of a favorite drinking hole—the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) currently has a grant issued to Boston University, so they can study the program for those who are in substance abuse recovery and also affected by a co-occurring mental health diagnosis.
No Access to A-CHESS? What Next?
With the software for A-CHESS apparently still far in the future for most of those who deal with substance abuse recovery, don’t give up! There are nevertheless other software applications for your android phone or iPhone that can help you. Here you’ll find five of them, top-rated by users.
Addicaid: Addiction Recovery by Twistor Labs, free. Users on Play.Google.com rate this 4 stars. First you create an anonymous profile, and then it allows you to rate various 12-step meetings, indicating your best and worst ratings for various groups. You can also write down your daily goals or indicate how you’re doing with them. It allows you to see a map of your favorite meetings including their starting times, so when you need a good meeting fast—you can find one.
Self-Help: Just For Today by Miranda Devs, free. Users rate it 5 stars. If you’re in substance abuse recovery, you certainly know the phrase Just For Today. When you open this app, you find the current day’s reading. The version from April 2015 includes a calendar/date-picker.
NAT (My Narcotics Anonymous Toolkit) by Look Before You Leap Net, LLC, offers in-app purchases. Users rated this at 4.5 stars. This app protects your confidentiality, hence the NAT with no telling icons to identify you as someone in substance abuse recovery. However, it allows you to journal on a daily basis by typing in your thoughts and feelings using your phone’s keypad. Better yet, it encrypts your entries, so that anybody who picks up your phone cannot see what you’ve written. It also allows you to maintain a Gratitude List. It displays your clean time each time you open it and you can also calculate your friends’ clean time.
IMQuit by piapox.com, free. Almost a thousand users give it a 4-star average. When you set up this app, you indicate what your addiction is. If it’s drugs, you can type in heroin or whatever. The app will track how long you remain clean and as soon as you relapse, you push a fail button. The device then asks you what caused the relapse. It will show you the lengths of your clean times using a bar chart and it will let you visualize your reasons for failing in a pie chart. You can also enter encouraging texts, and just when you need one, the device will display one of them at random.
Twenty-Four Hours a Day by Hazelden, $4.99. About 560 users give it almost a perfect 4.8-star rating. It displays the current day’s reading, and you can bookmark your favorites. If you’re looking for something special, you can search by keyword. It also allows you to share messages through synced email and it will remind you to open it if you haven’t already done so.
Share Your Favorites
When you’re in session at your methadone treatment program, why not share your thoughts with your counselor or with other people whom you’ve met while in substance abuse recovery? Communicate with one another what your favorite apps are and other electronic or Internet aids you may have come across. Recovery ain’t easy—nobody every promised it was—but you can make it a little more fun with these tools.