Advances in technology are helping people recover from addiction every day. From diagnosis to therapy, technology in all types of drug detox centers is helping create more meaningful recovery. Detox centers are also leveraging technology such as videoconferencing to help those in treatment access 12 step meetings at any time.
In a therapeutic setting, certain technologies may directly benefit treatment outcomes, but others help in a more indirect manner. Being able to attend a 12 step or support group meeting through telepresence can be a huge benefit, especially during a pandemic. If someone were at high risk due to a weakened immune system, or at high risk of relapse by leaving the facility, outside help may still be obtained virtually.
You can expect the use of technology to support addiction recovery in every detox facility, however, the type of technology can vary from location to location, and may be different depending on the type of facility. There are several major types of detox facilities:
—Outpatient Detox Centers: Outpatient facilities will provide detox services, but do not accommodate overnight stays. These facilities will be more like what you would expect from a traditional doctor’s office; daily visits will support the detox process, while the patient continues their typical daily life.
—Inpatient Detox Centers: Inpatient detox facilities will offer around the clock care. These facilities will accommodate overnight stays, all meals, and therapy in a highly structured setting. Patients in inpatient detox centers will remain in the facility until detox is completed.
—Medical Detox Centers: Medical detoxes specialize in medical oversight and supervision throughout the entire detox process. These facilities may be more appropriate for someone who is suffering from potentially dangerous, severe withdrawal symptoms, or those who have other health complications which may increase risks during the detox process.
—Rapid Detox Centers: Rapid detox centers are a fairly recent addition to the arsenal of treatment options. They use intensive medical therapies to assist the detox and recovery process. These may not be an appropriate choice for everyone and come with a unique set of benefits and risks.
—Drug Detox Centers: Drug detox centers can take many forms, some may be more appealing than others for a given individual. There are many program types and approaches to drug detox and there is no “right” way to detox from drugs. Some programs are medically monitored, while others offer minimal medical supervision. Each individual needs to find the right one for them.
Those who find themselves in a drug detox center typically have a high propensity for cross-addiction. An overreliance on technology during the critical detox / early recovery phase can lead to replacing drug addiction for technology use as a coping mechanism. A behavioral addiction to technology may encompass smartphone use, social media, and excessive online shopping. Other addictions that can fall under its umbrella include video game addiction, pornography addiction, and online gambling addiction.
There are a number of similarities between our use of smartphones and the effects of alcohol and drug abuse. When a person plays a game or makes a purchase on his or her smartphone, there’s a flash of satisfaction and enjoyment that’s short-lived and causes the individual to want to repeat the activity. This is somewhat similar to individuals who find themselves abusing alcohol or drugs. In short, many enjoyable smartphone activities cause a quick burst of dopamine in the brain. Over time, the individual repeats these activities with increasing frequency while also developing a much shorter attention span.
Of course, we tend to associate habitual smartphone use with younger generations, which is why current research often focuses on adolescents, teens, and young adults. Isaac Vaghefi, an assistant professor of management information systems at the Binghamton University-State University of New York, and a group of his colleagues recently conducted a survey in which a sample of nearly 200 college students were surveyed on their smartphone use. The students’ responses to each of the prompts on the survey corresponded to one of five different levels, which were (1) thoughtful, (2) regular, (3) highly engaged, (4) fanatic, and (5) addict. As well, “thoughtful” represented the little to no smartphone addiction and “addict” representing smartphone addiction.
Accordingly, about 19 percent of the respondents qualified as either fanatic or addicted, which means that their smartphone use causes personal, social, academic, and workplace problems. As well, these users often exhibited signs of depression, shyness, social anxiety, low self-esteem, and impulsivity. Neither smartphone addiction nor technology addiction is mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, but awareness and acceptance of both addictions continue to grow.
Technology has been increasingly leveraged in the treatment of addiction, both due to its prevalence and the benefits it may provide. From accessibility to a direct therapeutic application, technology has been another powerful tool added to the arsenal of recovery. Some of the more effective technologies which are seeing more frequent use include:
Biofeedback therapy is a promising technology that has been used in a wide array of medical settings, and the use of biofeedback therapy is gaining traction as a valuable tool in treating addiction. By monitoring a wide range of body processes including brain waves, heart rate, and skin conductance, a patient is able to recognize and work to reduce their negative responses to certain stimuli.
These therapeutic techniques are used in detox settings by allowing someone to see their physiological responses in real-time. When working with a biofeedback therapist, someone can learn how their body responds to things such as their cravings for drugs or their anxiety surrounding quitting. With practice, someone can recognize and control those physiological responses which can help alleviate cravings, improve mood, and reduce the stress of detox.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used forms of talk therapy offered in detox centers. Computer-assisted CBT applies the same principles via a digital medium such as computer programs, websites, videos, or games. Evidence has shown that computer-assisted therapy is a viable adjunct to detox treatment with applications targeted towards risk reduction, how to control cravings, mental health, coping skills, and emotional resiliency.
Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) has been successful in treating substance use disorder in a variety of settings by focusing on reinforcing and rewarding abstinent behaviors. Computer-assisted CRA enables the user to engage in activities and lessons that offer positive reinforcement, motivation, and behavior self-assessments. CRA in detox centers can be an integral part of treatment when combined with other forms of therapy including support groups and CBT.
Whether we like it or not, computer technology is here to stay and it will continue to be an important part of addiction recovery. Detox centers, when working together with the recovery community at large, will find new ways to use technology to help improve addiction and detox treatment.
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