Are Mobile Apps Helping Addiction Relapse Prevention?

Are the Internet and Mobile Devices Improving Substance Relapse Prevention Initiatives?

New Studies from The American Heart Association indicate that participants in internet interventions and those who used mobile device interventions reduced tobacco use and remained dedicated to cutting alcohol use. Researchers reviewed 224 studies conducted on generally healthy adults and evaluated the effects of the internet, mobile phones, and stand-alone computer tools to inspire behavioral changes such as reducing tobacco use and drug and alcohol cessation. According to the 23 years of research that was evaluated results indicated that people are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors when guided and encouraged via the internet, their cell phones, and other devices. Applications and internet services which have goal-setting components in drug and alcohol addition to self-monitoring mechanisms were helpful and effective as a mode of addiction relapse prevention.

A similar research study conducted by the University of Oxford examined records of patients suffering from depression and conducted studies on the use of internet applications for practicing mindfulness and preventing relapse in depression. The American College of Medical Toxicology published a paper regarding the various applications of addiction recovery mobile apps and examined the effectiveness of newer technologies for substance abuse relapse prevention.

The paper titled Wireless Technologies, Ubiquitous Computing and Mobile Health: Application to Drug Abuse Treatment, states that today mobile health technologies can be used for point of care diagnostics, remote patient monitoring and the promotion of healthy behaviors. Applications which are regarded as effective for many individuals in substance abuse relapse prevention because it provides on-going monitoring, mindfulness, and support that addiction disease treatment previously lacked. When looking at many diseases and their treatments most have a measurable on-going treatment that is in place, however with addiction that can be difficult due to the fact that relapse in addiction recovery is not caused by one known specific reason but could be due to many.

Addiction is similar to chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension in that lifestyle changes can influence recovery as can pharmacological therapies and that persons suffering from either can experience relapse. More importantly, relapse in any of the above chronic diseases is caused by a change in condition which then requires medical attention again to re-enter remission. Yet as mentioned before the treatment options for addiction are not as clear as with other chronic diseases because there is no single way to pinpoint causes of relapse or cause of the disease and there is no single treatment protocol.

Currently in the U.S 1 in 5 Adults uses some technology to track health

  • Text messages for fighting the urge to smoke
  • Emails form Recovery Coaches
  • Daily Prayers
  • Recovery Inspiration Reminders


In this sense mobile applications are effective as a form of relapse prevention because addicts have the ability to intervene on their own relapse by monitoring factors that contribute to substance abuse relapse. It is generally known that most individuals who suffer from chemical dependency do not openly and frequently communicate when they are experiencing cravings, self-doubt, and lack of control or when they are stressed. However, mobile applications and internet relapse prevention programs such as the Mindfulness apps provide a portable and private method of journaling emotions, stress, finding help, and the technology can predict when an addict is headed towards relapse prompting them to get help. Mobile apps can also simply provide means of self-monitoring, self-intervention, and recovery maintenance.  Each person can tailor their health apps to their challenges which is great since they often change as one progresses through recovery.

“According Sarah Bowe,an addiction research specialist, standard relapse-prevention programs teach tools specific to struggles with substance abuse—for instance, how to deal with cravings or how to say no when someone offers you drugs. A year after completing the program, a person may have a very different set of challenges.” Therefor successful relapse prevention programs should embrace what works on a person to person basis and revise approaches often to suit newer obstacles. Additionally, the addiction aftercare programs should be personalized based on individual recovery goals.

The NIDA is hoping to gain a better understanding of addiction and relapse through mobile health applications and hopes that with the ability to gather more data they can investigate further the influences of addiction and relapse.

“NIDA’s plan is to track the lifestyle choices, nutrition, stress, social life, work and home activities, genetics and technology exposure of participants, in hopes of better understanding what encourages the avoidance of or surrender to drug abuse”

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.