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Technology is slowly finding its way to the health sector (especially in addiction recovery) which is among the largest industry in the world.This has been possible due to its capacity to amalgamate the effectiveness of evidence-based treatments with the merits of wide-reaching interventions. With the help of technology, it has become possible to constantly have interactive responses between patients and caregivers – something which is considered crucial in the practice of healthcare delivery.
Currently, the area of substance abuse disorders is the one receiving the real deal of benefits when it comes to the integration of technology to the intervention approaches of various health conditions. The reason for this is the ability of technology to offer tailored support which, of course, is highly necessary for recovering drug addicts.
Here are some of the best modern technologies being applied in various outpatient drug rehab programmes (choose one here). These technologies have been proven effective in assisting the recovery process of drug addicts. Moreover, they are also backed by strong scientific research.
These are programmes delivered through a structured website where a client can access information at his own will. These type of interventions are broadly classified into four categories:
- Information and education: This programme is designed by outpatient rehab centres to facilitate a client in getting access to information, such as the cause and diagnostic approach of a specific addiction problem. The aim of this web-based intervention is to offer basic information regarding addiction and also provide links to other resources which can be of importance to a client. Although the purpose of this intervention is not to provide therapy, it sometimes contains information associated with therapy.
- Web-based therapy: This type of structured website provides detailed therapeutic feedbacks based on the personalised information given by clients. It begins with an elaborative assessment is conducted, whereby a client is prompted to provide details about his behaviour. After that, a tailored feedback about the behavior is given together with the ways on how to modify it. In most cases, the feedback will be provided in the form of automated texts or emails.
- Human-supported therapy: In this intervention, there is human contact whereby a client can chat either via email, webcam or through instant messaging. Although this technology still upholds the parameters of self-guided treatment, human support from outpatient rehab programmes is available for further assistance. This support varies in terms of response frequency as well as the time available for consultation.
- Therapeutic education system: This web-based programme solely focuses on providing skills to recovering drug addicts with reference to the approved community support method to behaviour change. The website will have different types of media and modules which are all training about behavioural changes and other psychosocial skills relevant to recovering drug addicts.
Although this cannot be exclusively considered as modern technology in the treatment of drug addicts, its current wide acceptance has earned it a position in this list. Initially, when this method was being introduced back in the 1990s, it faced a lot of opposition due to the various disadvantages associated with it. However, owing to many success stories emerging from clients treated through this method, many people have started to appreciate its importance.
In this method, a client will communicate with a counsellor via an online platform through instant messaging, emails or video calls. The main advantage of this method is its flexibility when it come to geographical barriers and therefore a client can attend a therapy process at any place provided there is the accessibility to the internet.
In this type of technology, simulation is developed in a software to offer a dialogue-based treatment to drug addicts. The software used is able to detect specific pattern match, dialogue principles, and technical terms in the area of chemical and behavioural addiction. Initially, such software could only operate through texting but the modern version can support voice communication, as well as recognise the emotional wants of users. All this has been possible at the courtesy of artificial intelligence.
Rule-based expert system
This type of system is developed to promote behavioural changes among the recovering drug addicts. In outpatient rehabs, this system is utilised to assess and treat selected addiction problems followed by progressive monitoring activity. This is possible due to a set of complex algorithms that are developed following specific rules to streamline the treatment and monitoring process. A good example of this kind of system is ‘drinker’s check-up‘. This system is able to recognise the threshold of risk as a result of alcohol consumption and the willingness to change.
Games and virtual environments
Virtual avatars are being used to treat the problem of drug addiction whereby the participants are represented by avatars which are able to carry out normal daily life activities in a virtual environment. They do this in close follow-up by the actual addict who is able to learn from the avatar and psychologically enable him to change the addiction behaviour. On the other hand, games such as the ‘MindCotine’ are also being utilised to help drug addicts, especially smokers from relapse.
The use of social media as a treatment tool for drug addicts has been around for just a few decades. In this method, a therapist will tend to create a personal blog, Twitter, or Facebook account from where he will be offering the intervention approaches to clients through chats or webcam.
Technology-based intervention in addiction has just begun and therefore more should be expected as people continue to appreciate the changes in the health sector. From the utilisation of simple mobile applications to digital sensors and now machine learning, the options will become prevalent with time. The ultimate goal for all these will be to enhance the interaction between patients and health workers with the aim of facilitating the recovery process.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and has a weekly column for Free Malaysia Today.
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