A Peek into Technology: Is It Really Helping Those in Recovery?

Technology is nearly pervasive – and recent studies are showing that there are currently over two million apps available for individuals to download on the computer or phone. With so much information right at the edge of our fingertips, it’s no surprise that technology has become even more prevalent in the realm of addiction recovery. Health applications are now available to track sleep, eating patterns, moods and more – but are they helping those in recovery maintain consistency in achieving their sobriety goals? Furthermore, could we use technology to help us identify when a person may be struggling with addiction? Below, we’ll take a look at the implications of technology for those in recovery.

The Many Faces of Technology

Those in recovery can quickly find the information they need through a variety of outlets; according to a 2018 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, there are 4 main categories of technology that are currently being found to help those in recovery:

  1. Web-based self-help interventions – basic information about addiction and recovery, therapeutic feedback and personalized support, one-on-one online chats or email support, and behavior change approaches
  2. Online counseling and therapy – individuals can meet online with a licensed therapist to talk about their concerns, no matter where they’re located
  3. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality therapeutic software – virtual games to encourage those in recovery to make certain changes based on their needs
  4. Other online services – social media support groups, blogs, etc.

Depending on the preferred method of learning, a person in recovery may decide that apps are not only convenient to use, but easy to understand, too.

Apps for Sobriety: Big in Numbers, Small in Quality

Tyler Watamanuk, a writer for Medium, explained in 2018,

“Apps have become a part of modern sobriety. I downloaded one when I got serious about getting sober, and I know plenty of people who use them as well. It’s not that anyone is especially excited about a particular sobriety app, but many sober people…have them on their smartphones.”

An example of just how widely researched apps have become is a 2018 study published in the journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth which involved the analysis of over 2,200 apps related to crystal methamphetamine addiction. Both free and paid apps were included in the study, and for both phone types (iPhone or Android). Researchers determined a set criteria for what constituted as a “high quality” app – and while none were found, there were only 2 that were provided a “good” rating. These results are quite shocking, considering the large number of apps that are created specifically to help people.

The two apps with the highest overall quality (as determined by researchers) were the two following apps:

  •    Triggr Health – Support for Reducing Drinking/Using
  •    Pure Rush

The first app targets those in addiction recovery by helping them keep track of their addictive behaviors – which can be associated with a variety of substances – so they can learn to reduce their usage over time. A “guide” is available through the app, which makes suggestions regarding goals for a person’s recovery plan. Consistent “check ins” are also incorporated into the app so that individuals are reminded every so often to update their activity.

The second app, Pure Rush, is a serious educational game that informs young people on drugs like cannabis, hallucinogens, methamphetamine and more. With this app, a person can select a character while navigating their way through a music festival; the overall goal of the game is to avoid “running into” drugs. The app provides relevant information for young people to learn about the negative effects of these drugs while also staying engaged; according to the authors of the study, another study found that females who used this app demonstrated greater knowledge in the outcomes of substance abuse.

Redditors in Recovery: A Recent Study

Earlier this year, researchers from Cornell University conducted a textual analysis on Reddit, a platform where users can obtain the latest news on essentially anything, to try and find certain words or phrases that indicate a person is becoming dependent on substances. After developing a system that analyzed the information from a variety of different Reddit posts, they found that certain drug references and patterns of language could indeed help people predict these transitions in their lives. While some may view this type of research as potentially invasive, other researchers are suggesting that it could jumpstart support and recovery services for people who need it.

Does Technology Help? It Truly Depends

Despite what studies say, a person’s individual experience with technology is what determines whether or not it’s helpful for them. Many people find solace in support online, but this certainly doesn’t make up for the improvements a person can make in person through formal treatment. In many cases, technology is used alongside formalized treatment, serving as a reinforcement for a person’s recovery goals.


Burning Tree West is a transitional college program dedicated to helping adults between the ages of 18 and 29 recover from addiction. Our campus is located in Tucson, Arizona, near the campuses of the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. Our program is designed to help young adults overcome addiction, build foundational life skills, and pursue their educational and career goals. Contact us today for more information.