Posted on August 17, 2017 in Alcohol and Drug Treatment, Blog

Digital Intervention: How Technology Is Helping People Stop Drinking

Millions of Americans participate in binge drinking, a highly risky pattern of alcohol use that seriously increases the odds of experiencing diagnosable alcohol problems. In recent years, public health officials and private companies have turned to modern digital technology to develop new ways to stop binge drinking and other dangerous patterns of alcohol intake. A brief rundown will provide a good overview of these newly emerging digital interventions.

Alcohol Intervention Essentials

Alcohol intervention is not the same as alcohol treatment. While treatment aims to help you recover from existing alcohol-related problems, intervention aims to help you avoid developing these problems in the first place. Specific steps that support this goal include:

  • Encouraging a restricted level of alcohol intake that minimizes the risks for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism and/or serious alcohol abuse), and
  • Eliminating involvement in binge drinking and other specific, dangerous drinking behaviors

While alcohol treatment requires a considerable time commitment, effective alcohol interventions don’t actually take much time when properly devised and administered. For this reason, experts in the field often use the term “brief alcohol intervention” to describe them.

Digital Approaches

Since the beginning of the 21st century, numerous digital approaches to alcohol intervention have appeared in the U.S. and around the world. Some of these interventions take the form of smartphone apps, while others take the form of text-based smartphone communications. In addition, some modern-day alcohol interventions are computer-based. Whether accessed via smartphone app, text or computer, digital alcohol interventions typically have goals such as:

  • Helping you keep track of the amount of alcohol you consume in a given amount of time
  • Giving you an easy way to calculate your current blood alcohol content
  • Helping you cope with common social pressures that promote excessive alcohol intake, and
  • Helping you determine whether or not your typical pattern of drinking puts you at-risk for an eventual alcohol use disorder diagnosis

Because digital alcohol interventions are relatively new, researchers don’t currently have a lot of data regarding their effectiveness. However, the limited information that is available strongly indicates that these interventions provide a real-world benefit for people engaged in unhealthy drinking patterns who don’t yet qualify for a diagnosis of alcoholism or alcohol abuse. This means that you can almost certainly include app-, text- and computer-based interventions to the list of ways to stop binge drinking and similar dangerous practices.

Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol Alert – Brief Interventions https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA66/AA66.htm

Alcohol Research – Current Reviews: The Promises and Pitfalls of Digital Technology in Its Application to Alcohol Treatment            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4432853/

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