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App helps recovering alcoholics stay sober


Recovering alcoholics who used an experimental smart phone app had a far easier time avoiding alcohol for up to a year after they left rehab compared to those who didn’t use the app. That’s based on a new trial involving nearly 350 recovering alcoholics, which found that those randomly assigned to use the app had an average of 1.4 binge drinking days per month — consuming three or four alcoholic beverages in two hours — compared to 2.8 days for those who didn’t get the app. The users of the app, called A-CHESS, were also 22 percent more likely to maintain their abstinence from alcohol, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“The system has a GPS that tracks when users are near their favorite bars,” said study leader Dr. David Gustafson, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who helped develop A-CHESS. “It will ping them when they’re close to these places and continue to send out pings if they haven’t moved past them.”

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After two or three alerts, the phone will ring with a pre-recorded message from a friend or family member emphasizing how important it is to stay sober. Users can press a panic button, which will automatically contact their sponsor or others who have offered to provide support. The app also has relaxation exercises and games to distract the mind from cravings.

The system is only available for purchase by rehab centers, but it will become available to consumers in July. D.K.

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