Relapse Prevention Via Smartphone
In the smartphone-dependent world, we find ourselves; there is an app for just about everything. While it’s fair to say that most applications have little real-life value, some programmers are designing apps that help people who are struggling with mental illness. In fact, there are significant swaths of people in recovery from mental health disorders, including addiction, which use smartphone apps to connect with other individuals for support. Given that a statistically significant percentage of Americans live in rural parts of the country having the ability to communicate with a broader community of people in recovery is invaluable, possibly preventing a relapse.
There are several applications that men and women turn to for guidance and support; Talkspace for instance, connects users with licensed therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ginger.io offers emotional support coaching, therapy, and psychiatry for individuals living with mental illness; the app connects such people with therapists 24/7.
One aspect that makes Ginger standout is that it utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest treatments, The Daily Beast reports. It turns out that AI is likely going to be the future of mental health support applications; the tech can go further than merely offering sound advice, AI can predict a relapse before it happens. The implications of AI in the field of recovery, where the stakes are often life and death, is enormous.
Working a program of addiction recovery requires steadfast dedication; the potential for slipping up and returning to active use is high, especially early in the journey. Community, and being a part of one, actually serves to safeguard one’s recovery. Those who stick close to their support network are more likely to make progress. However, there are often scenarios when people in recovery relapse and it comes as a surprise to the group. An individual appears to be doing the work, attending meetings, and so-on-and-so-forth. Then one day, a meeting commences, and such-and-such is not in the room.
Addiction is a severe form of mental illness; those living with mental health disorders like an addiction sometimes refer to it as being cunning, baffling, and powerful. While an individual is taking steps to maintain sobriety, the disease is in the next room devising a plan to get back into the spotlight. Although, there are often signs, cues that are somewhat ubiquitous regarding the nature of relapse. Those who’ve been sober for a while can often spot someone on the edge of relapse; meanwhile, the person about to slip up hasn’t an idea of what the future holds. In some cases, an “old timer” might approach a recovery novice and suggest some changes to avert a problem; but, it is impossible to prevent every such scenario.
One support app that is for people in addiction recovery is Sober Grid, the company’s website calls it, “a free peer support network right in your pocket to aid you in your recovery.” Sober Grid is similar to Facebook, and it connects people in all stages of recovery. The application came about in 2015 and is now part of more than 120,000 people’s lives. As with any app, there is a multitude of user data; developers could determine if a user had had an incident, i.e., relapse. Which led to a significant question, could those on the brink of decline be identified, and if so, could the app help prevent such an occurrence? According to Dr. Brenda Curtis at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, absolutely; relapses could be predicted using AI and potentially thwarted.
“The words people use reflect who they are (e.g., their personality) and how they feel (e.g., happy, depressed, stressed, relaxed). People using Sober Grid post messages and indicate the number of days they have been sober. We then build statistical models to predict sobriety or relapse from the frequencies with which words are used,” offered Lyle Unger, a professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-investigator on the project.
When the algorithm spots signs of relapse on the horizon, Chris Pesce, COO of Sober Grid, says providing extra support to the user could spare them of such an event, according to the article. He says the app can digitally deliver the tools that addiction therapists know help people on the verge of returning to active substance use. If users opt-in to the program, Sober Grid would instantly connect them with coaches; time is not a luxury when it comes to preventing a relapse.
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