From VR to Apps: How Technology is Transforming the Treatment of Alcohol Addiction

By Jordi Lippe-McGraw Jordi Lippe-McGraw has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on April 26, 2023

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to educate people about one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States: alcohol addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 90,000 people die yearly from alcohol-related causes. As a result, organizations and companies are turning to technology and innovation to address this serious issue and provide evidence-based treatments for alcohol addiction.

One technology-driven solution to alcoholism is Ria Health, an online program that combines technology, medication, and online coaching to help individuals reduce or quit drinking. Ria Health offers a telehealth model accessible to anyone looking to change their relationship with alcohol. The program provides various resources, including online meetings with coaching and medical teams, prescription medications and refills, virtual support groups and meetings, daily breathalyzer readings, and charts to track progress.

While abstinence is a common treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), it does not always align with people’s goals and can result in worse outcomes. Ria Health’s research shows that 51% of people with AUD, or those who have loved ones with AUD, prefer a treatment aimed at reducing their alcohol consumption rather than stopping it.

Ria Health’s approach focuses on harm reduction, which is customized and considers not only the end goal but also other factors that could affect the outcomes of an AUD program. Upon signing up, each member is shipped a pocket-sized Bluetooth breathalyzer that syncs with the Ria Health app. Members take regular readings, once every morning and once every night. This enables progress and treatment to be adjusted accordingly, giving members a daily ritual to keep them focused.

Ria Health also supports the Sinclair Method, a medication-based approach to moderate drinking or abstinence with a 78% success rate. The program’s treatment plans are customized to each individual, with support from Ria Health’s medical team of addiction experts and experienced care providers. Most major health plans also cover Ria Health.

Although Ria Health offers an innovative solution to alcoholism, other technology-driven approaches are being developed and tested. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine explored the feasibility and effectiveness of delivering cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) via a smartphone app to individuals with alcohol use disorder. The study found that individuals who used the app showed a reduction in the number of heavy drinking days and an increase in the number of abstinent days.

Aside from Ria Health, other companies also use technology to address alcohol addiction. For example, the Kip app provides on-demand digital therapy for people struggling with alcohol addiction. The app offers personalized therapy sessions and access to licensed therapists and coaches.

Another approach is virtual reality (VR) therapy, which immerses individuals in a simulated environment to help them confront and manage triggers that lead to drinking. VR therapy is still in its early stages of development, but research has shown promising results in reducing alcohol consumption and preventing relapse.

In addition to technology-based solutions, education, and awareness are critical in addressing alcohol addiction and its associated risks. National Alcohol Awareness Month serves as a reminder that prevention, treatment, and recovery are possible with the right resources and support. By leveraging technology and innovation, companies are making a difference in the lives of people struggling with alcohol addiction.

But, while technology can be a valuable tool in the treatment of alcohol addiction, it is essential to remember that addiction is a complex disease that often requires a multifaceted approach. Along with medication and technology, therapy and support from loved ones can be crucial in the journey toward recovery. Additionally, seeking out reputable treatment programs and healthcare providers specializing in addiction treatment is important.

By Jordi Lippe-McGraw Jordi Lippe-McGraw has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Jordi Lippe-McGraw is a News Columnist at Grit Daily. A multi-faceted NYC-based journalist, her work on topics from travel to finance have been featured in the New York Times, WSJ Magazine, TODAY, Conde Nast Traveler, and she has appeared on TODAY and MSNBC for her expertise. Jordi has also traveled to more than 30 countries on all 7 continents and is a certified coach teaching people how to leave the 9-to-5 behind.

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