The Role of Tech in Treating Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is an affliction affecting millions of people worldwide. Whether it’s at the hands of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, or other risky substances, almost everyone knows someone battling addiction. It could be a parent, a sibling, a close friend, or a coworker. Maybe it’s your romantic partner, or perhaps it’s even you

Access to digital tech is a gamechanger in the battle against substance abuse. In other words, if you’re reading this, you have an advantage. What’s more, you should put that advantage to good use, whether it’s for you or for someone you know struggling with addiction.

Online Outreach 

Centers for substance abuse and addiction treatment make a point to maintain some form of an online presence. Doing so is an essential aspect of reaching out to potential patients in the digital age and helping family members and other loved ones of those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. 

Let’s say you’re addicted to opioids and desperate for help, so you do a Google search for recovery options in your area. The first results you see will likely be for local substance abuse treatment facilities. For many, the next step is reaching out for help. Their ability to connect with nearby rehab centers via an online search is a product of algorithms and data science. Overall, developments in technology has allowed for easier access to addiction treatment opportunities in someone’s area.

Remote Recovery Options

For most addicts seeking to get clean, inpatient treatment is just the beginning of the road to recovery. Most of the journey will involve outpatient care, a process that occurs after inpatient has ended. 

During the age of COVID-19, outpatient treatment for substance use disorders and drug dependence matters more than ever. While detox centers have gone out of their way to accommodate patients during the pandemic, much depends on their ability to work remotely. Whether via video chat or text message, counselors and therapists are using tech to stay in touch with patients without seeing them face to face. 

Social Media 

When it comes to substance abuse, Facebook and other social media platforms are a double-edged sword. On one side, social media is a means for people to enable and prolong their drug use. For example, someone in recovery may find opportunities to contact people online who sell drugs through social media. Or, they may experience intense cravings to use their drug of choice if they see alluring photos or videos of drug paraphernalia, drug or alcohol use, or partying.

On the other, social media is a tool used by recovering addicts to empower themselves on the road to recovery. Social media can be a means to express your feelings and openly describe the harsh realities of beating addiction. Whether it’s a blog, vlog, or some other form of online expression, social media is a way for addicts to document their fight to achieve sobriety. In doing so, they not only help themselves but also potentially provide useful insights to those experiencing similar struggles in the future. 

Wearable Technology 

Apple Watch, Fitbit, and similar wearable tech gadgets are not yet optimized to provide direct assistance to recovering addicts. With that said, the information made available by wearable technology can prove vital in the fight against addiction. 

Think of it this way: you’ve decided to stop using drugs and plan on using exercise as a means of distraction. A Fitbit or similar product can help you monitor the number of steps you take in a day. It can also measure your sleep patterns and heart rate and prove vital in your effort to focus on health and wellbeing as a substitute for drug use. 

Hobbies and Outlets 

Perhaps exercise and healthy living are only parts of an effort to get clean for an individual in recovery. It’s not unusual for hobbies or other activities to take the place of substance abuse and unhealthy habits. 

Technology and online platforms can help people remain distracted or provide an ample outlet for their interests. Some may call trading technology for substance abuse “exchanging one addiction for another. 

Sure, technology can be addicting in its own ways. But look at it this way: This difference could be the distinction between an addiction that destroys your life and one that consumes your free time. 

When it comes to health and wellbeing, which would you choose? 

Artificial Intelligence

At some point, artificial intelligence, or A.I., may revolutionize the way we manage mental health and substance abuse disorders. In fact, it seems as though it’s already beginning to do just that.

Though several years away from being fully developed and deployed, A.I.-driven therapy systems will be a significant contributor in the fight against addiction. 

Chatbots and other incarnations of conversational A.I. today will likely get more sophisticated as time goes on. Eventually, such technology could be indistinguishable from interactions with real people. If this occurs, those struggling with addiction could interact with helpful and insightful entities minus the bias of a human. The assessment and evaluation conducted by such A.I. may even become superior in objectivity and factual basis – but only time will tell.

Modern medicine continues to grapple with how to best address substance abuse. No matter what, technology appears to be a guiding light in the future of drug and alcohol recovery pursuits. No matter what, state-of-the-art technology will be the key to solving substance abuse in the years to come. 


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