Tech to tackle alcohol addiction

Polish software engineers have devised a mobile application for recovering alcoholics. AlkyRecovery provides psychological support, monitors progress and motivates users to stay on the right track. 

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Tech to tackle alcohol addiction - NewsMavens
Phone and drink, Pixabay

Why this story matters:

According to Poland's Ministry of Health, about 600,000 to 700,000 Poles suffer from alcoholism -- 2% of the population. However, up to 12% of people abuse alcohol. Each year, 10,000 Poles die due to alcohol abuse, 7,000 due to cirrhosis of the liver, 1,500 due to overdose and alcohol poisoning and the same amount due to mental illness caused by drinking.

AlkyRecovery is designed to help users deal with alcohol cravings -- the symptom that is one of the major obstacles in recovery. Cravings are difficult to control and can manifest themselves as strong feelings of fear, irritation, sadness or low self-esteem.

When these feelings emerge, the desire for “one last drink” can be overwhelming, especially if this was the way a person has dealt with such strong feelings over the years.

The key element in the first stages of recovery is support. But not everyone is willing to admit to an addiction in front of another person and not everyone has access to therapy, so this is where software could come in handy. 

Details from the story:

  • The application is comprised of 5 sections. The most important ones are the diary of emotions, the diary of cravings and chat. On the desktop, the “sobriety counter” is showing how long the user has been off alcohol, which has been proven to be a strong incentive in therapy. There is also a NewsFeed.
  • AlkyRecovery is free and designed with not only alcoholics but also their families in mind.
  • Some users have complained that, from time to time, the application encourages them to pray for strength. It seems unnecessary and confusing to include religion in a software which is designed to help all kinds of people battling addiction, many of them atheists.
  • Another downside is that users have to provide access to private information from Facebook, Twitter and Spotify as well as other audio, video and telemedical data. AlkyRecovery creators assure that servers keeping this data are in Gdansk, Poland and they are secure.
  • The algorithms can allegedly assess the strength of the addiction, the current mood of the user and, within 3 years, they will be able to detect whether a person has broken their abstinence.
  • The app provides a chat with other people in the same situation as well free online consultations with therapists twice a week. It also has a space where users can keep a diary of their emotions and patterns of behaviour. They can analyze what has happened and why they reacted the way they did, which helps them be more mindful in the future. They receive a daily dose of encouragement as well reading materials on alcohol addiction.
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NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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