New drug addiction treatment ideas: iPhone apps

New drug addiction treatment tools are being developed at a quick pace. But can technology help addicts stay clean? We review a new drug addiction treatment idea here…using your iPhone to help your recovery.

minute read

Is the iPhone a recovery tool?

Well, it can be. Just like any other piece of software, the iPhone is as helpful to you as it meets your needs. So what are the needs of an addict or alcoholic in recovery? I talked with Dr. David Sack, from Promises Treatment Center in CA about this very issue. Their new iPromises iPhone app was created to address the very specific challenges and deficits for clients who finished residential treatment. Dr. Sack identifies three major issues for addicts:

1. Connection – Addicts or alcoholics in recovery need other people in their lives. This is why we emphasize attendance at 12 step meetings. Additionally, any good iPhone app will help a person in recovery easily contact their recovery friends, sponsor, and help geo-locate meetings.

2. Memory – Alcohol and drug related memory impairment is present during early recovery. Prospective memory is the type of memory we use to plan and organize what we are going to do next. As a result of their drug or alcohol use, people in early recovery can plan to do things but forget. This is why keeping information related to recovery in one place (like the iPhone) can increase success rates.

3. Emotions – Addicts and alcoholics in early recovery have a difficult time recognizing emotions. In fact, there is up to a 40% incidence of alexithymia in people recovering from addiction.  Alexithymia is the clinical terms we use for the inability or trouble in recognizing and expressing feelings. Addicts can be volatile but do not have early warning awareness to manage the experiences down. The iPromises iPhone app lets you ID your own personal triggers to drug or alcohol use. And then you can plot these triggers over days, weeks and months to become more conscious of your feelings and see trends emerging.

Recovery tools 101

So, looking into free smart phone applications that help addicts in recovery seems, well … smart. The features for these applications vary, and although I generally like the iPromises app, I thought I’d give you a list for basic feature options that a good recovery app should have.

1. The ability to geo-locate where you are now (GPS)
2. A searchable meeting finder or directory for 12 step groups (including 800 numbers to inter groups)
3. A way to track recovery progress over days, weeks or months

– Time clean counter for days sober
– Step work progress
– Emotions tracking
– Triggers tracking
– Meeting attendance
– Meetings with your sponsors

4. Daily inspirational thoughts or words
5. Guided meditations (Audio files)

Should addicts buy iPhone apps for addiction?

If you use an iPhone app once a week, I’d say that it’s worth your while to invest in it. But the safest bet is to find some free apps, try them out and see which you like. And remember, the goals to using any tool in recovery should be simple.  An iPhone app for recovery should help you to:

* get connected to others
* find meetings
* track progress

What do you think?  Are any features missing?  Can IT solutions really enhance recovery, or does life with an iPhone just make life  more complicated?  Is it better to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) off technology and keep with recovery basics?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. As someone who has lived the life of a codependent, I can understand the ramifications of addiction.

    I would recommend Recovery Box App. It’s a new app in the iPhone store that deals with all of this and more. I’ve talked with the developer too and there are lots more ideas floating around for the next version.

  2. I recently attended an ethics workshop and there was a discusson about how to use technology in a safe and confidential manner. One of the problems for treatment programs is to adhere to the laws so that the treatment program does not get sued. One way would be with a secured web site and two way visual/sound communitation. Secure web sites are currently use to email probation officers and DFS caseworkers. Early recovery is a difficult time and the problem identifying the feeling that creates a relapse reaction is common. I remember twenty five years ago having my head jerk toward every bar or liquor store I passed. That situation lasted for about five years. It is the involuntary responses that can set the person up to do something that causes them to say “How did this happen again”. Having someone that they could talk to face to face in your pocket might make a difference if the reaction hasn’t become a thought.

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