We live in a time where technology is being utilised to enhance our lives for convenience, accuracy and reliability. From the moment we wake up, often from alarms set on our mobiles phones, which can also track our sleep patterns and remind us how much sleep we should be having, from the moment we sleep, we are aided by technology every step of the way. The production of new technologies is so rapid and lucrative, there is an app for anything you could think of.

It is no surprise then that, in the addiction treatment field, technology is being developed and implemented in rehabilitation and medical centres to improve treatment delivery, input assessment information and to review and analyse data. Just like a person can use apps to facilitate their love life, or food delivery, researchers and doctors have employed these styles of platforms to fight against addictions, such as substance misuse, transforming how the disease is treated with a minimal cost to the client.

Nearly 1.3 million people between 16 and 59 used class A drugs in the UK in 2019, according to the latest official drug misuse statistics from the England and Wales Crime survey, and with drug related deaths on an increase, technological aids to addiction treatment could mean the difference between life and death.

Platforms such as iTunes has Alcoholics Anonymous’ ‘The Big Book’ available to listen to, alongside a plethora of informative podcasts on recovery and guided meditation and mindfulness. Easily accessible information and support such as this increases the listeners independence; they can listen while they are on holiday, in a break at work or even out shopping – it encourages the user to build back up their daily routine without feeling devoid of support. Furthermore, there is “One Day at a Time” – which provides an amalgamation of The Big Book and daily meditations alongside an abstinence tracking system and access to useful phone numbers to call if needed.

People who prefer a more practical app, The Sure Recovery app, created by iCAAD London presenter Professor Joanne Neale, is designed to help a user review their daily activities and reflect on the impact of these activities. They can also track their sleep, write in a daily journal and upload pieces of creative art that other users of the app can see.

Technology based treatment methods are able to combine the efficiency of empirical evidence-based solutions with the benefit of interventions that are easily accessible and far reaching which provides the opportunity for fast responses, face-to-face exchanges and an ability to build support. For example, Sober Grid is a global social networking app, connecting people in recovery with the choice of anonymity. Users can send messages to each other, share information and seek and give advice and help. Furthermore, there is a ‘Burning Desire’ selection that can be triggered to demonstrate to other users that a person is going through a particularly challenging time and requires support.

It has been consistently noted that addiction treatment is most effective when it is able to meet the client’s needs. However, over the decades of research into mental health issues and addiction, it is evident that those struggling with addiction often display complex needs and report difficulty maintaining their commitment to recovery. Technology in addiction treatment seeks to bridge this gap. Additionally, technological platforms for addiction treatment recognises that a persons motivation to engage with treatment can vary; meaning initial engagement with treatment can prove difficult in mainstream methods, challenging throughout the course of treatment resulting in high numbers of people abandoning treatment. Technological advances such as apps, and neurofeedback treatment seek to bridge these gaps by providing timely interventions that deliver quick feedback and aim to produce informative, tangible evidence of progress to boost confidence in the client and the process.

Neurofeedback treatment is based on the understanding that initial substance misuse can be voluntary, but after time the user is unable to make rational decisions around their use, as sustained substance abuse alters brain functioning which causes continued substance abuse.

In treatment, a professional will create a ‘brain map’ to identify where unusual brain activity is taking place, forming the basis of a treatment plan to remedy either a lack of activity, no activity at all, or hyper-activity. Similar to the methods of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it is believed that by creating an awareness of how the brain works and the causes behind cravings and other negative feelings can give the client a significant advantage in tackling addiction.

While the technology based methods previously described can notably improve the process of recovery for those suffering from addiction, they also benefit professionals, helping to overcome barriers typically reported, such as those who live remotely with limited access to transport or for other reasons find it either difficult or impossible to leave their homes to engage with support. Online counselling through instant ‘chat rooms’ allow professionals to interact with someone struggling with addiction instantly, and can allow more open and honest discussions as the client can take their own time to specifically word how they feel and what they need, while maintaining anonymity if they choose. Furthermore, platforms such as Skype allow the professional and client to speak ‘face to face’ despite being geographically distant and can create treatment plans together to achieve the client’s goals, while saving both professional and client travel expenses.

Since the introduction of internet based, technological platforms for self-help and support, development has been fast paced, productive and progressive to encompass people from previously side-lined demographics. Interactive platforms to help treat addiction has ultimately produced a wider range of choices, to meet a more complex set of needs and will continue increase over time.