Should You Use Alcohol Monitoring in Your Addiction Treatment Program?

Alcohol Recovery Session
January 30, 2020
|   Updated:
November 1, 2023

Nearly one-third of American adults struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) during their lifetime, which amounts to well over 23 million people. Of this group, only 10% ever receive treatment for their disorder. These statistics reveal a difficult truth: AUD is having a profound effect on society. Many adults find it hard to seek the treatment they need, whether it be due to a lack of resources, denial, or being unaware of the problem altogether.

Due to this, participating in an addiction treatment program is a crucial step for anyone battling the disorder. These programs can include long-term residential care, medically managed withdrawal, individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or alcohol monitoring.

What is Alcohol Monitoring?

Alcohol monitoring is designed to track the alcohol consumption of individuals during their recovery journey. This includes any type of device or testing that keeps records of the amount of alcohol in a person’s system. Anyone seeking to utilize alcohol monitoring in their treatment plan has several available options. The following list details the most common forms of alcohol monitoring individuals choose to pursue during recovery.

Types of Alcohol Monitoring

Urine Testing
Urine Testing in a Lab

With urine testing, the client must visit a clinic and provide urine samples that will be analyzed to determine levels of alcohol. Tests can be completed as often as three times a week or more. With this approach, individuals are subject to random testing and are, therefore, unable to plan their drinking around test times.

Ignition Interlock Device
A Man Using Ignition Interlock Device

Ignition Interlocks are breathalyzers designed to be installed in a person’s vehicle. Upon entering their car, the driver must blow into the device to engage the ignition. If the device detects alcohol, typically at 0.025% or higher, it will deactivate and prevent the car from starting. Depending on the travel duration, the device may prompt the driver to submit an additional test.

Ankle Bracelet
Wearing an Ankle Bracelet

Ankle bracelets are often referred to as continuous alcohol monitoring devices. Ankle bracelets are typically court ordered for an individual and transdermal, meaning that they monitor alcohol levels in a person’s blood by examining perspiration from their skin. These bracelets cannot be removed, and tests are usually done every half hour.

Remote Alcohol Monitoring
Soberlink Remote Alcohol Monitoring

Remote alcohol monitoring is typically considered the least intrusive of all methods of alcohol monitoring because it can be done anywhere at any time. Unlike ankle bracelets, the devices are handheld, making them more discreet and adaptive to everyday life. Comprehensive alcohol monitoring systems like Soberlink offer scheduled tests to support accountability. Using wireless connectivity, test results are digitally delivered in real-time to all included parties.

Benefits of Alcohol Monitoring

Without alcohol monitoring, people in an individual’s recovery circle are required to rely on a person’s word that they are sober. This is often difficult because individuals suffering from AUD may have a tendency to manipulating the system to conceal their drinking habits. Alcohol monitoring’s main benefit is that it promotes accountability by providing individuals with structure as they navigate their recovery.

In the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol and Drugs, it was shown that “ongoing monitoring of alcohol/substance use, with clear, reasonable consequences for any instance of continued use, is the most promising evidence-based intervention for dramatically enhancing the likelihood of sustained abstinence.” In layman’s terms, alcohol monitoring has a strong history of success.

Alcohol monitoring also increases the opportunity for collaboration amongst care providers. When results are delivered in real-time, providers have easy access to them, which allows them to work collaboratively with clients. Being able to conduct a test from anywhere, and the instant delivery of results, all make alcohol monitoring a convenient and modern tool for addiction recovery.

Proven Results: Alcohol Monitoring for Licensed Professionals

Treatment providers want to create an opportunity for individuals seeking continued care post-treatment. In a study done by The BMJ, over 900 physicians were treated for a substance use disorder, where sobriety was promoted through “early detection, treatment, and monitoring of substance use.”’

Study about Physicians Enrolled into Physician Health Programmes

In the end, 79% of those physicians in licensed professional programs maintained sobriety, and only 21% had one relapse or more. In comparison to overall fairly low recovery rates in other treatment programs, their findings were groundbreaking. Only about 30-50% of patients in a traditional, non-licensed professional recovery program avoid relapse. Though it should be mentioned that the actual percentage of the success rate is difficult to determine, due to potential discrepancies in monitoring times or patients dropping out.

The above study reveals that the emphasis was now on the individual, customizing the treatment plan to their specific needs. Soberlink was also accredited for the high success rate, allowing for early detection of relapse and enhanced accountability during recovery.

How Alcohol Monitoring Can be Integrated into an Addiction Treatment Program

Each patient’s situation typically requires a different type of treatment plan, depending on the severity of the disorder. Effective treatment programs are shown to use alcohol monitoring in conjunction with other methods.

During Treatment

Those who experience severe AUD generally benefit from attending an in-patient treatment program, in which they receive around the clock care. Others might go through an intensive outpatient program, or IOP, where the same treatment services are provided, but patients do not live at the care facility.

A treatment program’s goal is to transition clients to outpatient care, and from there, back into daily life. Using alcohol monitoring tools as another layer of support can help foster transparency, keep patients accountable, and help curb their desires to drink. One 2018 trial even showed that 85% of people who used alcohol monitoring experienced success in their treatment, versus the 38% of people who did not use it.

Statistical Research Showing Correlation Between Use of Alcohol Monitoring and Alcohol Abstinence

Post-Treatment and Relapse Prevention

To prevent relapse, the post-treatment phase is perhaps the most crucial stage in which to integrate an alcohol monitoring system. Post-treatment plans can include: following a relapse prevention plan, therapy, or a mutual support group. All of which seek to benefit the client through employing the coping mechanisms learned during treatment.

The American Association of Addiction Medicine states that individuals who have completed treatment but don’t prioritize aftercare programs, relapse at a rate of nearly 100%. This further emphasizes the significance of programs choosing to implement alcohol monitoring during early recovery.


Alcohol Recovery Coach Explaining the Benefits of Soberlink

Both recovery coaches and clients can benefit when they use a monitoring system in their recovery journey. Recovery coaches walk alongside clients, supporting them through the rehabilitation process. Some coaches work with clients during the early stages of their recovery, and others aid in the sobriety journey during post-treatment.

Remote alcohol monitoring allows clients to share their progress with their recovery coach in real-time. Soberlink offers the personalized scheduling of tests and allows individuals the ability to develop a consistent routine to aid in their recovery. Coaches can view the results, and guide clients through any road bumps they might experience throughout the process.

Outcome Monitoring

If an individual completes treatment, post-treatment, and recovery coaching, they are typically more prepared for a seamless transition to day-to-day life. During this time, alcohol monitoring can be used as a clinically effective way of extending treatment and keeping a client on track during recovery.

For example, Soberlink can facilitate tests no matter the geographic location, allowing clients to stay accountable regardless of where they are in the world. When positive outcomes can be measured, it inspires others to see how alcohol monitoring can benefit their recovery journey.

How Should Monitoring be Used?

In 2017, a group of addiction experts formed a panel to discuss the role of clinical monitoring in addiction treatment. The professionals sought to gain clarity on the following questions: what is the recommended frequency of clinical monitoring, what are the recommended clinical responses to positive tests, and how should remote clinical monitoring be used in to treat AUD?

Concerning duration, the panel concluded that monitoring should be used for at least 12 months following outpatient treatment. These tests were deemed to be most effective when administered two to three times per day, an amount found to be minimally intrusive amongst the test candidates. Soberlink was the recommended tool given its ability to detect alcohol two to five hours after consumption, which spans a vast majority of the day.

In reference to missed tests, the panel cautions readers not to assume the worst. Missed tests were discovered to be common, sometimes occurring anywhere between two to three times a month. Instead, the panel encourages open communication, revealing that missed tests provide an opportunity to reevaluate the testing schedule. However, if more than 30% of scheduled tests were missed, the panel recommends there be repercussions and modifications. It was widely agreed that a single missed test doesn’t necessarily indicate a drinking event. A positive test result, however, would mean that the patient’s support group be contacted, a face-to-face meeting with a clinician should be initiated, and the frequency of monitoring should increase. Upon a second positive result, the panel agreed that treatment for that individual should be intensified, according to what their clinician deems necessary.

Further, the experts also determined that monitoring helps promote transparency, notifying treatment professionals when clients are struggling so that they may interfere and provide the help needed. In summation, monitoring was recommended to be used at every stage in the recovery process to help clinicians receive feedback on the status of their patient’s journey.

Treatment Programs That Have Implemented Alcohol Monitoring

Every day, thousands of people work through their treatment plans and stay committed to battling AUD. The following case studies analyze the use of alcohol monitoring in recovery to reveal its various benefits and dedication to improving the treatment process.

Hazelden Betty Ford Case Study

Hazelden Betty Ford Case Study

The experts at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation discuss how addiction affects the areas of the brain related to memory and learning. Individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder have a trigger in their brain that correlates their drug use to a positive experience. Because everyday triggers can also create a positive impact on those centers of the brain, the continued exposure to these feelings can make it challenging to remain sober.

Therefore, the clinicians concluded that the brain must be re-trained and re-wired to obtain sustained accountability. As a result, they created the Connection Program, which was modeled after a licensed professional program and gave patients the ability to document their sobriety using Soberlink. Since 2015, the program has been successful in pairing monitoring with a recovery coaching campaign. Since its fruition, over 700 individuals have graduated from the program and maintained sobriety. Some clients monitored for as long as three years.

Hired Power Case Study

Hired Power Case Study

Hired Power is a group that relies on Telehealth to “promote independence and empower their clients who suffer from AUD.” Telehealth uses electronic technology to support remote healthcare, similar to Soberlink. Hired Power’s decision to implement digital support came after difficulty determining whether a drinking event took place because lab results take several days to process.

Soberlink is one of the devices that fall under this digital support umbrella, allowing for real-time results instead of having to wait several days for them to return. Exchanging lab tests for Soberlink, Hired Power reported that they were able to connect with patients across the country, and help “clients stay more engaged with their recovery.”

Aware Recovery Case Study

Aware Recovery Case Study

Aware Recovery Care (ARC) provides in-home care for individuals who have been recovering from AUD for over a year. The treatment center employs licensed therapists, certified recovery advisors, family wellness liaisons, and addiction psychiatrists to regularly meet with their clients and set up a home environment conducive to sober living.

Recognizing that consistency and structure are essential in recovery, ARC decided to implement Soberlink as their go-to remote alcohol monitoring device. A natural fit, Soberlink supports the center’s ‘in-home model,’ allowing patients to establish consistent and transparent results directly from home. The therapists working with ARC could then monitor the results that Soberlink provided. Five years later, the first five clients ARC took on had all maintained their abstinence, along with over 145 other clients.

Alcohol Monitoring That Works

It’s easy to assess the vast benefits of remote alcohol monitoring when they are presented using statistics and case studies. However, each number represents the recovery of a real person, most of whom have found success using Soberlink.

“I went through treatment twice, and still relapsed. I really needed something to hold me accountable and NOT allow me to somehow manipulate my way out of it. I initially offered to use Soberlink on my own to help show I was sober to my children’s father, and my friends/family. But it wasn’t until I handed my account control over to my counselor and a family member, that I truly started to get better,” one Soberlink user tells their story.

“If I were to drink, I would get caught,” they continue. “I can honestly say that I would not be sober, surrounded by my beautiful kids, living an incredible life if it weren’t for Soberlink…I recommend it if you really want to be sober. It’s hard to give up control to someone else, but for me, it’s what I needed, and it was a lot easier than being in active addiction and trying to do it on my own,” says another user.

Reading about the positive impact alcohol monitoring can have on the recovery process could be the encouragement a patient needs to take the next step toward reclaiming control of their life. It’s time to finally explore a supplemental treatment plan that showcases success time and time again. Learn more about the technology-assisted care that Soberlink offers and see how your recovery journey evolves.

About the Author

Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and technology includes facial recognition, tamper detection and real-time reporting. Soberlink proves sobriety with reliability to foster trust and peace of mind.

Learn More About Soberlink

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