OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma researcher is hoping a smartphone app will help those struggling with alcohol.
The new technology being studied aims specifically at some of our state’s most vulnerable- those experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness is a problem impacting thousands of Oklahomans every day and addiction can make that battle even tougher.
“Although most people who are homeless do not have an alcohol problem, it can be a major barrier to finding and maintaining housing,” said Michael Businelle, PhD. with OU Health and TSET.
Businelle is part of a team of researchers hoping technology will help.
In a recent study published in a major journal on alcohol and alcoholism, they found the “Smart-T Alcohol App” reduced drinking.
Five times per day, the app will ring or vibrate and ask questions.
“How high is the urge to drink? Are they around people that are drinking? Are they sad or depressed?” Businelle said. “These are questions that when we combined them in a previous study predicted about 80% of all drinking episodes within the next four hours.”
Of course, one barrier to entry is the cost of smartphones.
Businelle says about 50% of those experiencing homelessness they studied in Oklahoma City and Dallas have smartphones.
“And if a person doesn’t own a smartphone, we loaned them one for these studies,” Businelle said.
The app also provides users with tailored messages to help them meet their goals.
“If they don’t have a goal today at all about their drinking, it will help them develop a goal for their drinking for that day,” said Businelle. “So it really meets them where they are. It’s not like mandating reduced drinking or anything like that.”
They are now seeking a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
If it’s funded, they will have a larger study with shelters like The Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City and Dallas.
One day, they hope it can also be used in those battling addiction who are not experiencing homelessness.