Smartphone App Helps Support Recovery After Treatment for Alcoholism

Main Point:

A smartphone application appears to help patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) reduce risky drinking days compared to patients who received usual care after leaving treatment in a residential program.

Published in:

JAMA Psychiatry


David H. Gustafson, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and colleagues.


Alcohol dependence is a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis with relapse rates similar to other chronic illnesses. Continuing care for AUDs has been associated with better outcomes, but patients leaving treatment for AUDs typically are not offered aftercare.

How the Study Was Conducted:

The authors randomized 349 patients with alcohol dependence leaving three residential programs to treatment as usual (n=179) for a year or treatment plus a smartphone (n=170) with the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS) application. The application featured audio-guided relaxation and alerts if patients neared a high-risk location, such as a bar they used to frequent.


Patients who used the smartphone application reported fewer risky drinking days (when a patient’s drinking in a two-hour period exceeded four standard drinks for men and three for women) compared with controls (an average 1.37 fewer risky drinking days in the smartphone application group). A standard drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Patients using the smartphone application also had a higher likelihood of consistent abstinence from alcohol.


“The promising results of this trial in continuing care for AUDs point to the possible value of a smartphone intervention for treating AUDs and perhaps other chronic illnesses.”


David H. Gustafson PhD, Fiona M. McTavish MS, Ming-Yuan Chih PhD, Amy K. Atwood PhD, Roberta A. Johnson MA, MEd, Michael G. Boyle MA, Michael S. Levy PhD, Hilary Driscoll MA, Steven M. Chisholm MA, Lisa Dillenburg MSW, Andrew Isham MS, Dhavan Shah PhD. A Smartphone Application to Support Recovery From Alcoholism: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(5):-. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4642

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online March 26, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4642)

Editor’s Note:

This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Media Advisory:

To contact David H. Gustafson, Ph.D., call Renee Meiller at 608-262-2481 or email

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