The six best apps to help recovery from alcohol addiction

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A medically reviewed Insider article that draws on three addiction experts describes six of the best apps dedicated to helping people who are recovering from alcohol addiction to stay sober. Also, BMJ Open published research across 83 countries that measured changes in drinking behaviours and psychiatric factors before and during COVID-19 quarantine.

The Insider article argues that for people with a drinking problem, finding a community and tracking days in recovery – in person or on an app – can help to stay sober. Published on 29 March 2021, the article spoke with two addiction specialists and was reviewed by a third.

The research from Cambridge University, University College London and the University of Paris, published last November, found that drinking behaviours decreased overall during quarantine – but 36% of people reported an increase in alcohol use, especially older people, essential workers, people with children, those close to a person severely ill with COVID-19 and people with higher depression, anxiety and positive urgency impulsivity.

 

Insider article

After the stress, isolation, and burnout of 2020, many people are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol, writes Anika Nayak for Insider. For some, this revaluation may look like cutting back to moderate levels or consciously going without alcohol for a period of time, save for special occasions.

But for others, the pandemic highlighted a real issue they have with alcohol in their lives. Put plainly: if you realise you may not have a healthy relationship with alcohol, it is time to reassess your drinking habits. (This shortened version of the Insider article does not include a section that goes into detail about what counts as a drinking problem.)

While an app cannot replace professional treatment – and should not for those who have become physically dependent on alcohol – recovery apps can push people toward receiving the care they need and guide them toward other avenues of support.

Apps have their own advantages, namely quick-access support whenever you need it and the veil of anonymity, which often helps people be more truthful and forthcoming, Dr Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer at rehab network American Addiction Centers, told Insider.

However, alcohol addiction recovery apps are far from one-size-fits-all. To help sort through what is available, Insider spoke to addiction specialists about what to look for in an alcohol recovery app. The best apps available were researched, from daily motivational reminders to a 24/7 supportive community of peers on the same journey, and everything in between.

I Am Sober

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free, offers in-app purchases

Navigating sobriety will be hard, and sometimes you just need a reminder to acknowledge that you are taking the right steps to get better. The I Am Sober app helps you to track your days sober and major milestones. It also has you make pledges to hold yourself accountable throughout the journey.

The best part about this app is the fact that it serves as a visual reminder of your sobriety and accomplishments, says Insider. People can journal directly in the app, take photos and even share their progress with others, which provides support and encouragement. There are also features to set a sobriety birthday, end-of-day summaries, and motivational messages tailored to one's needs.

Sober Grid

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free, offers in-app purchases

A strong sense of community can strengthen your resolve to stay sober since it provides endless support and connection to people who are going through the exact same thing. Sober Grid bills itself as the #1 social network for people recovering from drugs and alcohol, offering users the valuable gift of a 24/7 peer support network.

You can remain anonymous and choose what you want to share with the judgment-free group of people who are also on the path to sobriety. The app also has a sobriety counter where you can unlock badges as you move along your treatment journey. Features include virtual check-ins and online quests that you can participate in to track your recovery daily.

While most of its services are free, Sober Grid does have a paid option where those in active treatment can see a certified peer support coach for additional resources. These coaches have gotten sober themselves and have undergone over 500 hours of training in their respective states in America. Although this is not a replacement for professional treatment, it can help set goals, monitor your progress, and provide support via hearing their story and struggles.

Sober Tool

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free

Developed by a Harvard-educated certified alcoholism counsellor and a team from the Ohio State University, this app is designed from the perspective of qualified professionals looking to help people navigating sobriety.

Sober Tool’s big selling point is help for dealing with the emotions faced throughout the process. The app offers a dropdown of questions about how you're feeling, then healthy coping mechanisms to keep in control of your emotions. It also has a search engine where you can type your thoughts and feelings for answers that will invoke positivity and tranquility, which may help avoid relapse.

You'll also have on-demand access to a counter for both days sober as well as money saved from not drinking. On this digital platform, you can turn on notifications for daily motivational messages to stay empowered, and anonymously share your struggles with others via an instant chat forum.

Sober Time

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free, offers in-app purchases

Every person who is actively sober knows the day they last touched the stuff. With Sober Time’s extensive time-tracking tools, not a day will go by without you remembering this important milestone. This tracker provides specific updates in real-time, inspiring you with every second, minute, hour and day that ticks by and you haven't had a drink.

You can personalise the app to serve your needs by adding goals, receiving daily inspirational messages, or keeping track of any relapses that may occur. If you do not have a specific goal yet, the app has plenty you can choose from to track and share your progress.

Sober Time also has a virtual community forum where people often discuss challenges related to their path. The group builds a space where you can post anonymously and share your personal stories in an uplifting zone of those who care.

Recovery Box

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free, offers in-app purchases

Recovery Box is a toolbox for all things alcohol addiction recovery. This app is based on the 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, a global community designed to help individuals quit drinking with peer support meetings and resources. Through the various features, you can navigate each of the 12 steps with corresponding activities, readings, and reflections.

Recovery Box has an in-app program with thousands of online sponsors worldwide to choose from, which is helpful when you need to talk to someone who has been there and can help hold you accountable, grounded, and on track to prevent relapse.

The app also has a community support feature where you can chat with people in real-time, discussing stories from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the prayers included in the app. Recovery Box also provides hourly reminders to promote mindfulness and consciousness.

Nomo

Platforms: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free

Designed by a guy in recovery who needed something to keep him on track, Nomo works to keep people dedicated and motivated. For starters, you can add as many clocks on the homepage to count the days you have been sober, given up any unhealthy habit, or even celebrate a new action you've adopted in your life for better health and well-being.

The best part about Nomo is the optional features that provide a boost of positivity and encouragement. There is a digital encouragement wall from community members, mindfulness journaling, and mental exercises to help stay focused on goals.

We also love that Nomo takes the work out of asking for help with a feature that allows you to send notifications to your loved ones when you feel tempted in order to foster accountability and moral support.

Our expert sources

For this article, Insider spoke with the below experts:

  • Dr Lawrence Weinstein, addiction psychiatrist and chief medical officer at rehab network American Addiction Centers, who is board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine and has more than 20 years' experience in psychiatry, addiction and managed care.
  • Dr Joseph De Santo, a board-certified physician who practices addiction medicine and is the medical director of the BioCorTx recovery program. Dr. DeSanto is an active member in several 12 Step Recovery Programs, and has experience with Spiritual, SMART, and Rational Recovery programs.
  • Dr Indra Cidambi, board-certified psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist and medical director of the Center for Network Therapy, who helped institute the Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detox model for all types of substance abuse across New Jersey. Cidambi provided a medical review that all the information in this article is factual and accurate.

The full Insider article can be accessed via the link below.

 

Study details

Assessing international alcohol consumption patterns during isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic using an online survey: highlighting negative emotionality mechanisms

Samantha N Sallie, Valentine Ritou, Henrietta Bowden-Jones and Valerie Voon

Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, UK; Faculty of Basic and Biomedical Sciences, University of Paris, France; and Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London, UK.

Published in BMJ Open on 26 November 2020

 

Abstract

Objectives 

The COVID-19 pandemic has required drastic safety measures to control virus spread, including an extended self-isolation period.

Stressful situations increase alcohol craving and consumption in alcohol use disorder (AUD) and non-AUD drinkers. Thus, we assessed how COVID-19 related stress may have affected drinking behaviours in the general population.

Design

We developed an online cross-sectional survey, Habit Tracker (HabiT), which measured changes in drinking behaviours before and during COVID-19 quarantine. We also assessed psychiatric factors such as anxiety, depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and impulsivity (Short-Impulsive Behavior Scale). Lastly, we related drinking behaviours to COVID-19 specific stress factors.

Setting and participants

HabiT was released internationally, with individuals from 83 countries participating.

Participants were included if they were 18 years of age or older and confirmed they were proficient in English. The survey was completed by 2,873 adults with 1,346 usable data (46.9% accurately completed).

Primary outcome measures

Primary outcome measures were change in amount and severity of drinking behaviours before and during quarantine, and current drinking severity during quarantine.

Results 

Although drinking behaviours decreased overall during quarantine, 36% reported an increase in alcohol use. Those who increased alcohol use during quarantine were older individuals (95% CI 0.04 to 0.1, p<0.0001), essential workers (95% CI −0.58 to −0.1, p=0.01), individuals with children (95% CI −12.46 to 0.0, p=0.003), those with a personal relationship with someone severely ill from COVID-19 (95% CI −2 to −0.38, p=0.01) and those with higher depression (95% CI 0.67 to 1.45, p<0.0001), anxiety (95% CI 0.61 to 1.5, p=0.0002), and positive urgency impulsivity (95% CI 0.16 to 0.72, p=0.009).

Furthermore, country-level subsample analyses indicated that drinking amount (95% CI 9.36 to 13.13, p=0.003) increased in the UK during quarantine.

Conclusions

Our findings highlight a role for identifying those vulnerable for alcohol misuse during periods of self-isolation and underscore the theoretical mechanism of negative emotionality underlying drinking behaviours driven by stress. Limitations include a large degree of study dropout (n=1515).

Future studies should assess the long-term effects of isolation on drinking behaviours.

Strengths and limitations of the study

The Habit Tracker (HabiT) study sampled drinking behaviours of a large, diverse population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes in drinking behaviours were assessed against specific COVID-19 related stress factors.

Due to the length of the survey (8–10 min), we observed a large degree of study dropout.

Subjects were within varying phases of lockdown during the time of testing.

The prevalence of diagnosed alcohol use disorder drinkers sampled was low, likely related to sampling issues or under-reporting.

 

Insider article – The six best apps to help people recovering from alcohol addiction to stay sober (Open access)

Visit the I Am Sober website for more information (Open access)

Visit the Sober Grid website for more information (Open access)

Visit the Sober Tool website for more information (Open access)

Visit the Sober Time website for more information (Open access)

Visit the Recovery Box website for more information (Open access)

Visit the Nomo website for more information (Open access)

BMJ Open article – Assessing international alcohol consumption patterns during isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic using an online survey: highlighting negative emotionality mechanisms (Open Access)

 

SEE ALSO FROM MEDICALBRIEF’S WEBSITE

 

Alcohol-related deaths in Britain hit record high during pandemic – 16% rise in a year

A daily alcoholic drink and atrial fibrillation risk — Large 14-year study

Chicago research reveals ways to predict – and treat – alcohol use disorder

Chronic alcohol use reshapes brain’s immune landscape, driving anxiety and addiction

 

 


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