We have an app for that: Relapse prevention

Submitted by: 08/05/2013 by Maureen Fitzgerald

It started with a group of innovative thinkers who got together in 2004 to envision a new system of effective addiction treatment. Armed with the ideas that emerged from that retreat, NIATx Director Dave Gustafson and his team began to develop Addiction CHESS (A-CHESS), a smartphone application for preventing relapse among people leaving treatment for alcohol or other drug dependence. Its features include discussion groups, recovery information, personal stories, a sobriety counter, a daily reminder, a weekly check-in, a panic button, and access to a support network that includes peers in recovery and a counselor. From 2009 to 2011, A-CHESS was tested in a NIDA-funded clinical trial involving 349 people at two treatment agencies. The results were promising: study participants used A-CHESS regularly and continued to use it over time.

IN 2011 The CHESS Health Education Consortium offered agencies the opportunity to test and refine A-CHESS and explore the best ways to disseminate the application once it’s ready for wider distribution. Nine treatment organizations from across the country are currently members in the consortium, gaining access to A-CHESS for up to 100 clients and 10 counselors. Consortium members receive initial training on how to use the application along with ongoing support via phone or email. They also participate in monthly phone calls and an annual meeting.

“Input from the consortium members has shown that A-CHESS is an effective tool for maintaining recovery as part of structured treatment program that includes therapy, and in some cases, medication,” says Susan Dinauer, associate researcher at the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies. (NIATx is also part of the Center). “Consortium members have also used it successfully with a range of SUD client populations, including veterans, the hearing impaired, people in the criminal justice system, pregnant women, and the homeless.”

In addition to testing A-CHESS with various populations, the consortium members have contributed to design improvements to the application. “They’ve provided feedback on improving the tool for clients as well as counselors and administrators,” says Dinauer.

While many smartphone applications to help people maintain recovery are emerging and available, A-CHESS may be the only one that is supported by research. “Our consortium members have also reported that the many features make it more comprehensive than others,” says Dinauer.

Currently, the only way to gain access to A-CHESS is through membership in the Consortium, but the Center is exploring ways to make it more widely available. “We expect to make A-CHESS available through another option in 2014,” says Dinauer.

For more information, visit www.chess.wisc.edu

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