Technology has helped make our lives easier in several ways. While the first that may come to mind is the advancement with electronics and apps that improve efficiency, one way you may not think about is how it is changing how we address mental health and addiction. Many doctors and researchers are increasingly relying on technology to combat drug and alcohol addiction.
Recovery apps are available to addicts to help them manage their conditions. Sober Grid is one example that allows recovering alcoholics find a support network while traveling. Other recovery apps can help track alcohol consumption. Some can connect addicts to their sponsor through voice and video functions. The importance of a post-treatment support system is paramount in helping addicts overcome their disease. Recovery assistance is available at the touch of a button, no matter how far away rehabilitation centers might be.
Technology is being embraced in treatment and recovery centers, too. Neurofeedback therapy is a means of helping a patient’s brain stay centered when feeling cravings. Doctors can reward positive interactions and create positive associations, assisting patients in changing their cravings to positive rewards. Neurofeedback therapy is controversial in some health circles, but many see it as a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is another form of psychotherapy to help people heal from emotional distress. Often triggers that create the desire for drugs and alcohol are a result of trauma. EMDR helps remove blocks that can facilitate emotional healing. EMDR therapy sessions show that 84% of single-trauma victims no longer felt PTSD symptoms after six sessions. Another study found that 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD symptoms in just twelve sessions. EMDR is one of the most innovative treatment techniques for mental health and addiction. It may become the future of trauma treatment soon.
Virtual reality may soon help play a broader role in addiction treatment, too. Scientists in South Korea are working on a method to use VR to create negative associations with problem substances. Test subjects watch three scenarios, including one with unpleasant side-effects from drinking. Results show an increased lack of desire to engage in drinking after viewing in VR. Virtual reality development is still in its nascent stages of technology development. Still, it is promising that researchers are discovering positive effects through using the technology with addicts and those with compulsive behaviors.
MIT scientists believe gene therapy could help fight alcoholism. A genetic mutation found in East Asian populations increases the adverse side effects of alcohol consumption. Researchers were able to reduce alcohol cravings in rodents using the therapy. While this study has not been performed on humans, researchers are hopeful it may help. Gene therapy is just one extreme that technology could produce in the near future. From recovery apps to helping PTSD patients address their triggers, technology is helping address addiction in new ways. Advances in virtual reality and alternate reality may be the key to helping address mental health issues in a safe and controlled environment.