There is no single aspect of healthcare in the modern digital world that is not impacted by technology. Like most things in life, there is a duality at play regarding the positive and negative role of technology on personal well-being. Relying on the media consumed via smartphones and tablets, people can either improve their mental health or cause it to deteriorate rapidly.
Dependence on technology can lead to isolation and enhance a person’s struggle with anxiety or depression. Despite the potential negatives of technology, addiction recovery can also benefit from the internet and software designed to monitor users’ progress.
In the era of COVID-19, technology has made it possible for support groups to continue to gather remotely in the comfort of home. Healthcare professionals have turned to their computers to continue therapy sessions with their patients. One encouraging aspect of the pandemic is that it has taught many in the medical community that they can reach their patients remotely. This has made it easier for medical professionals to coordinate care and contact individuals who need access to preventative therapeutic tools.
Talking about one’s addiction issues can be extremely difficult. The remote nature of a Zoom or Skype call can make it easier for people to share their stories. The internet provides ample opportunity to break down walls and provides a safe space for people to push past the fear of opening up about their struggles.
Healthcare providers are also finding that they can reach more people than ever before through social media. Paid ads on Google and other search engines allow medical professionals to appear at the top of the search results for commonly searched phrases and questions. Social media marketing allows the healthcare industry to reach patients on sites that they routinely visit.
The internet also offers ample opportunities for people to share their experiences and develop online support groups. One of the biggest fights in the battle against addiction is the struggle with isolation. Online communities can let people know that they are not alone in their experience, which is a powerful lesson. Chat tools like Slack and Discord make it possible for people to interact with a sponsor or medical professional in real-time. While no one knows when the lowest moments will arise, the option to communicate at any time is comforting to those in need.
From a financial standpoint, technology can allow those in the healthcare community to administer care to patients at a much lower cost than traditional brick-and-mortar offices. Once the cost of technical support and a strong Internet connection is assumed, professionals can open therapy sessions to individuals as often as their schedule allows. With studies showing that addiction and mental health issues impact communities in rural and urban communities, the internet provides a way to reach more people in need. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 85 percent of Americans subscribe to mobile phone services. This increase in accessibility allows more people in need to seek out the treatment they need.
In addition to therapy sessions, healthcare professionals can monitor the progress of their patients through apps. The software can be used to create individualized treatment plans based on a clinical diagnosis and to track patient’s progress. Therapy no longer needs to stop after a traditional session has ended. Healthcare professionals can share an abundance of material online that allows individuals to educate themselves on everything from nutritional plans to tips on navigating issues with withdrawal symptoms. Of course, educational materials must be provided by reputable sources. One of the most significant negatives of the digital age is access to misinformation. It has never been more critical to ensure that the information a person is consuming is vetted by professionals. Addiction treatment relies on transparency and facts. Credible sources for health-related information play a significant role in the success of a person’s recovery.
Technology such as the internet and mobile phones offers considerable promise for affecting the assessment, prevention, and treatment of and recovery from substance use disorders. Technology may enable entirely new models of behavioral health care within and outside of formal systems of care.
When most people think of addiction in America, they think of the opioid epidemic or alcohol abuse. One of the fastest-growing forms of addiction is technological addiction. A balance must be struck for those utilizing their smart devices to aid in their recovery. A “like” on social media or a win in a mobile game can release dopamine in the brain and provide a sensation that an addictive personality will want to obtain more of again and again. This is why it’s essential for the medical community to continue researching the most effective ways to leverage technology positively. Every individual is different, but a phone can act as a replacement drug. The phone can serve as a temptation to forgo healthy sleeping habits or as a means to eating healthy meals. Ground rules that monitor when technology is used and for how long should be set and followed.
Balance is one of the most important aspects of addiction recovery. Many people who suffer from dependence on a substance are chasing the highest of the highs. There’s a desire, even in recovery, to focus on the good and eliminate any bad experience. Unfortunately, this is not how human experience works. Instead of striving for perfection, every individual should strive for progress. The same logic applies to reliance on technology as a recovery tool. It’s impossible to claim technology as the sole solution. Online support groups or digital therapy sessions are great, but they must serve as only a part of a balanced recovery plan.
The most exciting aspect of the role of technology in addiction recovery is that the medical community has just begun to explore how it can assist in the recovery process. As more studies occur and more research is collected, there will be more ways than ever before to leverage the benefits of technology in the recovery process.
About the Author: Andrew Schetter is a professional writer in the digital marketing industry. Andrew works with his clients to ensure their voice is heard.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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