UAA researchers may have found a way to get heavy drinkers to cut back their habit.
The psychology department just finished an experiment which used smart-phones to act as a companion of sorts for alcoholics who know they need help.
They developed and tested a software application called the "Buddy System."
It's for drinkers who want to get sober and reminds them of their goal during moments of vulnerability.
“It addresses a real pressing need for this large number of people who want some form of treatment, but don't want to go to traditional alcohol treatment,” said Patrick Dulin, a UAA psychology professor who worked on the study.
They loaded the “Buddy” app onto a few dozen smart-phones and handed them out to a test group of heavy drinkers.
Among the features of the application are GPS enabled reminders.
Say the user was to wander near a place where they usually drink. The phone would recognize that and then intervene, offering several choices.
The user could select to call a trusted friend, call a cab, view a photo of a loved one, locate a nearby Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or they could just ignore the warning altogether and continue with their plan to drink.
The application also allows users to track their cravings and analyze their drinking habits.
Researchers say the program is about giving addicts a choice. They say early results from their test shows people often just need to be reminded of how they can avoid dangerous situations.
“At the beginning of the study folks were drinking heavily about 55% of the days,” said Vivian Gonzalez, a UAA researcher who worked on the study, “While using ‘Buddy,’ folks dropped their (heavy) drinking down to only 14% of the days, so almost a 4 fold reduction.”
The experiment is now over and the software is not available for download, though the UAA team says they hope to eventually make the application available for iPhone and Android users.
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