How to Use Technology to Fight Addictions

November 18, 2015

9:00 pm

Addiction is defined as a dependency, where a person regularly needs to indulge in an action (such as gambling) or use a substance (such as alcohol or drugs) despite damage to themselves or others. Some would argue that technology is one of the most prevalent dependencies for people in the modern age, since you needn’t look far to see someone on a mobile device. However, technology has redeemed itself in a way. The latest advancements in science have seen technology actually used to fight addictions, even serving as one of the best treatment methods available, either independently or in addition to therapy.

In recent years, virtual reality simulators have been used to help people with mental disorders or phobias to overcome their mental obstacles, all by immersing them in a safe but realistic world. Here they can confront these obstacles without risk, gaining realistic practice they can apply in the real world. With this as a template, technology has broadened its reach to a range of different ailments with a number of techniques. Here are three in particular with the greatest results.

1. Early Warning for Gambling Addiction

Online gambling has made it easier than ever before for people to test their luck from the comfort of their homes, and while this makes it easier to keep things in perspective, for some, it opens doors for greater risk of addiction. The BetBuddy is computer software which can be installed and used to monitor a user’s gambling habits, collecting this data, storing it with flash storage, and comparing it to information on other addicts. This allows the program to spot signs of developing addiction and warn the user against their growing dependency. All online gambling sites in the UK are required by law to ban users upon their request, essentially helping them go cold turkey for their own wellbeing. With this technology, users can receive an early warning and address their problem immediately before it runs out of control, in whole making online gambling safer and more enjoyable.

2.Mobile Phone App as a Virtual Sponsor

With addiction so widespread, it’s difficult for treatment centers and support groups to keep up with the growing volume of people in need of support. This leads to many patients falling through the cracks. However, Lisa A. Marsch, a specialist at the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, has had a hand in creating a mobile phone app designed to combat this issue. The app serves as a private “sponsor,” who can offer encouragement, reassurance, and other helpful techniques in the way a typical sponsor would. This allows addicts to have instant access to support, without a delay in time, feelings of insecurity at bothering someone else, or a lack of funds that keep them from receiving help when they feel most at risk. Statistics gathered from users of this app show a large percentage stayed clean longer and continued to use their treatment more regularly than before.

3.Virtual Reality Training for Addicts

Virtual reality is usually seen as a recreational luxury of the future, but a team at the University of Houston is actually using its abilities to create a convincing but entirely safe environment for recovering addicts. Treatments have often used real-world practice to help an addict develop skills for avoiding temptation on their own or resisting it when it’s in front of them, yet VR offers all these advantages at a heightened state. By immersing patients in this virtual world, they can be tempted in social situations or specific environments they’re used to, where they’re presented with the smell of marijuana or highly realistic-looking alcohol they are supposed to reject. As they interact in this world, their therapists can study their reactions to find where improvement is needed, offering training on how to adjust their tone of voice, body language, and even word choice to have greater results in turning down an offer of alcohol or drugs.

Technology has been used to make every aspect of life easier, and this is truer than ever before with its ability to help people fight their addictions. By lending a helping hand in a fast and focused manner, addicts can recover, stay in treatment, and avoid addiction altogether in a way that is both easier and more comfortable.

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“I’ve been blessed to have a successful career and have recently taken a step back to pursue my passion of writing. I’ve started doing freelance writing and I love to write about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet. I also write for Dell every once and awhile.” – Rick DelGado

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