An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. are in recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions, each on a recovery path uniquely their own. As we journey through the Digital Age where 62.9% of the world population has a cell phone, it’s becoming increasingly inevitable that Telehealth – the use of technologies to provide care over a distance – will be incorporated into recovery treatment programs.
Telehealth practitioner and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, Michael O’Brien, has successfully transitioned his practice to be conducted entirely through technology-assisted care, allowing his patients to receive treatment that is both accessible and convenient. Through videoconferencing, online assessments, and remote alcohol monitoring, O’Brien can provide his clients with easier access to his services and gain a deeper understanding of each patient’s unique needs.
Videoconferencing has become an increasingly popular tool for addiction treatment professionals because it is a more convenient and cost-effective option for patients. It allows addiction treatment professionals to interact with clients in a way that closely resembles face-to-face counseling and has shown to produce effective results. “I have clients from San Diego to Portland, many in rural areas where there is no access to treatment facilities,” says O’Brien. “If you have to drive four hours to see a counselor, you will usually pay someone like myself to receive treatment from home. It’s easier, more convenient and makes treatment accessible to everyone.”
A study was recently published by The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that evaluated the effectiveness of web-based videoconferencing specifically for substance abuse counseling. Eighty-five participants were randomly assigned to receive 12 weeks of weekly counseling in-person or via videoconferencing. The results supported the feasibility and acceptability of videoconferencing as a good method of substance abuse counseling based on the attendance, urinalysis results and patient satisfaction ratings.
Screenings and assessments are common tools utilized by addiction treatment providers to evaluate whether there is a particular problem present, and to determine the best treatment plan for that individual. “I do assessments for individuals who think they may have a problem and are looking for help, but are unsure of the severity,” O’Brien explains. “I also conduct forensic evaluations for family law cases where substance abuse is present, and DUI cases to understand the severity of the individual’s problem.”
AUDIT, or Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test, is one of the most commonly used screening tests to identify the presence of AUD. This questionnaire can be completed online, allowing the patient to complete the assessment from anywhere and instantly share their results with their treatment provider. There are many new recovery apps that prompt addiction recovery patients to rate their mood, urges and stress levels throughout the day. This information is shared with their recovery circle to follow their progress and interpret whether they may be at risk of a relapse. These tools allow addiction providers to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their patient’s recovery journey and improve the treatment they receive.
With 90% of people with alcoholism relapsing within 4 years of finishing treatment, it is crucial for addiction treatment providers to develop sustainable, long-term recovery plans to help patients achieve lasting success. “I do not require my clients to drug test but would say a majority of them choose to,” notes O’Brien, “Because it gives them an added level of accountability to help them achieve their goals.”
O’Brien often recommends Soberlink to his clients to support their accountability for sobriety and long-term recovery through the comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with automated cloud-based reporting, Soberlink provides documented proof of sobriety to the patient’s recovery circle that gives them a sense of accomplishment while rebuilding trust with others. “From a family member or friend perspective, a device like Soberlink gives them the ability to know [the monitored client] is telling the truth,” says O’Brien, “And helps reestablish the trust that has been worn away over time.”
Technology-assisted care is reducing barriers to entry for addiction recovery by limiting costs, eliminating geographic restrictions and offering more personalized schedules. Ultimately this allows people to access the help they need more often to achieve lasting sobriety. To learn more about the benefits of long-term monitoring, click here.