The Surgeon General Said It: Use Technology to Combat Addiction

By Soberlink 12/20/16

Soberlink is becoming more and more commonplace in the field of healthcare and is a favorite tool of sober coaches and treatment facilities.

A woman's blurry face with in-focus hands holding mobile phone.

We've covered the most recent Surgeon General report on addiction, which was given the full star treatment when Facing Addiction hosted A National Summit with the Surgeon General, a day of panels at Hollywood's Paramount Studios this November. The report and summit covered a heck of a lot (recovery advocates can talk drugs and booze for days, y'all) but to recap some of the major bullet points:

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is pro-evidenced-based practices and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) but definitely not anti-12-step/abstinence-based methods; he acknowledges there isn't a one-size-fits-all-method for treatment; he wisely continues to hammer through people's skulls that Substance Use Disorder (The Artist Formerly Known as Addiction) is a disease, not a moral failing, and not recognizing it as that is the real moral failing. He also wants to make treatment more accessible and more regularly implemented into preventative care. And he believes that knowledge about substance abuse at all stages (the increasing levels of severity are classified in the report as "mild," "moderate" and "severe") needs to be integrated into the mainstream healthcare system. That way, awareness and remedies can be as common as those for hypertension, diabetes or other chronic health ailments.

And so how does he suggest we do that?

Getting Tech-Savvy with It

The report recommends the use of "technological advancements" to deliver health care, provide health information or education and monitor the effects of care for Substance Use Disorders — including smartphone-based applications that facilitate monitoring, communication and support services for people in recovery, or earnestly trying to get there. In English: let's bring treatment into the 21st century.

Most people nowadays live on their phones, whether they like it or not. Why not showcase the phone's most flattering features (as opposed to ones that make you a rude dinner companion or a slave to your job)? Apps are becoming crucial aids to self-care regimens. We use them to count our steps, track our calorie consumption, meditate, and even get therapy. Why not utilize every resource possible? We're already glued to the damn things anyway.

Virtual Accountability

This brings us to Soberlink—the portable breathalyzer that sends real-time BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) results to anyone granted access — and which can be accessed via any phone (it also can send text reminders to people that it's test time). How does it pull this off? When someone breathes into Soberlink, the action is captured and uploaded into an online system. Facial recognition software confirms the identity of the person and sends results to a pre-approved list of people. It's becoming more and more commonplace in the field of healthcare and is a favorite tool of sober coaches and treatment facilities (think hard-core aftercare). It's also utilized in family law (when a custody case calls for one parent to demonstrate hard proof to another parent that they aren't drinking, for instance). The bottom line is, with FDA clearance and increased accessibility for Soberlink, breathalyzers aren't just for DUI busts anymore.

Experts in the field and individuals trying to maintain sobriety rave about Soberlink and research is on its side. According to Chapter 4 of the Surgeon General's report, "Preliminary evidence shows that Web- and telephone-based assessments and brief interventions are superior to no treatment in reducing substance use, and often result in similar or improved outcomes when compared to alternative brief intervention options." Technology for the win.

On-Screen Recovery

Recovery-oriented apps and cool technology like Soberlink are supplements to a continually growing sector of sober support networks and online communities. People are reading and writing addiction blogs, attending virtual meetings, joining sober Facebook groups and making 12-step memes for Instagram, all in an effort to do whatever if takes not to pick up or use. When a public figure with wide influence like the Surgeon General promotes utilizing every technology possible to help combat addiction, we're not gonna argue with him. A modern world calls for modernized treatment.

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