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Sunday, February 25, 2024

UW creates mobile application to help substance abusers

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers received a $3.5 million grant to develop and test mobile applications to help prevent relapse in patients who suffer from substance abuse.

The grant, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will enable UW-Madison researchers, in collaboration with a team from Dartmouth College, to create and test applications with features specialized to help those who struggle with substance abuse to fight urges and cravings.

The application will include features such as geo-tracking, a service allowing users to enter in the address of a bar or other location that has caused substance abuse problems for them in the past. Then, if a user gets near that location, the application will display a previously recorded video, either by the user themself or a family member, to remind them why they want to be sober, according to UW-Madison Professor Dhavan Shah, the scientific director of the grant.

Another feature the application will include is a “panic button.” This feature allows any patient on the verge of giving into a craving to immediately connect to a counselor with the push of a button.

According to Shah, the costs of medical care for substance abuse patients are incredibly high not only to the patient, but the economy as a whole.

“What we are able to show is that by providing people with this intervention we are actually reducing immediate medical costs,” Shah said. “And then obviously there is the long-term economic and health benefits that occur, like reducing substance abuse disorders.”

According to Shah, the grant provides funding for five years.

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