Technology plays such a significant role in our lives that countless experts and media outlets are constantly debating its efficacy. When it comes to substance misuse prevention, technology is a major asset. Discover how medical professionals have leveraged evolving technology to treat substance use disorder and prevent setbacks for those in recovery.


Dr. Lisa A. Marsch, director of the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, conducted research on the use of technology in interventions. The results of a pilot study suggested that intervention through an app significantly decreased opioid use at a methadone treatment center. The app also helped patients stay in treatment longer. 

Additionally, apps and technology accommodate challenges like staff availability, budget concerns, or time constraints as they are available 24/7 and don’t require a staff member. Because of ease of access, even individuals who haven’t yet sought treatment can use the apps for intervention. 

Therapeutic Education System (TES)

TES is a web-based, self-directed program for people with substance use disorder. The TES program is a simulator type of program that presents real-world scenarios through video. Viewers can watch a demonstration of someone turning down a substance and consider how to improve their technique. 

The program also provides direct quotes or actual body language the person completing the program can use in real life. TES allows individuals to move through the treatment at their own pace and, often, from the comfort of their own homes. It can also easily be utilized in schools and universities to support a large group of participants. 

Computer Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT)

CCBT instructs patients on how to change patterns of substance use, cope with cravings, and turn down substances. You can implement a CCBT program with 6-12 modules over the course of 8-16 weeks. In one such program, 36% of patients abstained from cocaine usage for three weeks or more while only 17% of patients abstained in the group without the CCBT program.

CCBT programs support treatment by reinforcing concepts and empowering patients with techniques. As the technology improves, it can continue to creatively support patients while freeing up the capacity of recovery professionals and volunteers. 

Addiction–Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS)

A-CHESS is a smartphone app created to support patients leaving inpatient rehabilitation for alcohol misuse. David Gustafson and his team at the University of Wisconsin developed the app to include things like guided meditations and warning pop-ups when the user is close to a bar or liquor store. Because the app incorporates so many innovative approaches, it can support individuals in recovery in unique ways. According to data, after four months, A-CHESS users are 8% more likely to have abstained than those who have not used the app. After 12 months, users are 12% more likely to have remained sober. 

Access to health

By utilizing developing technologies, prevention and recovery systems can support patients more easily and widely than ever before. For example, limitations such as physical disability or lack of transportation may hinder someone from traveling in for counseling. Services like telehealth appointments or the video programs listed above enable people to receive care from their own homes. Additionally, insurance mobile apps can make it easier and more affordable for people to find the medications or care they need. Even social media campaigns cutting down stigma and informing the public about substance use disorders can help viewers know they aren’t alone and that they can seek help.

Substance misuse and relapse prevention have made massive strides in both how we discuss them and how we are able to approach them. As technology continues to improve, our methods for prevention will grow and shift with them. For referrals or access to resources like these, contact Wellspring Center For Prevention offices at 732-254-3344.

Photo by Artem Podrez

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