Our world is more connected today than it has ever been before. Everything from our TV’s to our fridges is ‘smart’ and connected to the internet. In many cases, the use of technology makes our lives simpler and far more convenient. Siri and Alexa can help us look up directions, apps in our fridges can monitor grocery lists and spending trends, robots clean our floors, and the lists goes on. However, what does this connectivity look like for those with substance use disorders?
Digital technology can enable addicts in their addiction as well. It could be tough to break an alcohol addiction when the fridge is continually ordering a new case of beer. However, advancements in artificial intelligence can also help addicts identify possible triggers that lead to relapse. This is not to be confused with technology addiction, however, where the gizmo or gadget is the source of the addiction. Rather, innovations in technology have the potential to increasingly enable other forms of dependency like alcohol addiction or pornography.
Imagine a world where our fridges can monitor our eating and drinking habits, compare those analytics to the items stocked in our fridges, and then order fresh groceries when items get low. Never having to go to the grocery store again may be a dream for many, but this has the potential to continue the cycle of addiction. Imagine trying to get out of the vicious cycle of alcoholism, the alcoholic may desire sobriety and tells themselves they will not get another case of beer or bottle of wine when the current one is finished.
However, advancements in digital technology will soon get us to a point where a fridge will know the addicts drinking habits and order a new bottle of wine or case of beer without them even asking. There are also app-connected e-cigarettes on the market that track usage. It is not that far of a stretch to think that the same app that tracks usage could also pre-order more liquid nicotine before the user is out.
The internet was invented in 1983, it is just 37 years old and many individuals remember a time before it. In the early days of the internet and online connectivity, one had to go to work, school or have a personal computer to connect online. Even then it was slow and clunky, working through the phone lines people had to ‘dial in’ to connect.
The world today is vastly different, and we have access to a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge right at our fingertips. Our smartphones today are significantly more powerful than many personal computers. This also means that people with gaming, internet or pornography addictions have far more accessibility than ever. Today approximately half of online activity is done through mobile devices.
Artificial Intelligence in supporting recovery
The abilities of artificial intelligence continue to get more and more powerful. Artificial intelligence is based on the principle that human intelligence can be understood in a way that can be easily mimicked by machines. The goals of artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, and perception. As digital technology advances, previous benchmarks for artificial intelligence become outdated, allowing our devices to become smarter and smarter every day.
Sam Frons is on the forefront of using artificial intelligence as a means of recovery support for addicts. Sam is a recovering addict who had become disenchanted with the traditional 12-step method of recovery. His app Addicaid uses artificial intelligence combined with clinical research to identify when individuals may be at risk of relapse, and the app develops a customized treatment program for each unique user. His app is a data-driven approach to recovery, it uses machine learning, adaptive AI, and health research to specify targeted treatment options. The app, can also connect addicts with other addicts leading to fewer feelings of isolation and hopelessness, and connect users with treatment centres, care teams, and therapy options.
We live in a world of notifications, reminders, sensors, and other seemingly ‘smart’ technology. Life’s conveniences can also spark the addiction cycle; there will likely come a time when food and alcohol are pre-ordered as part of our ‘smart’ appliances recognizing eating and drinking trends. Also, this new technology does not even begin to consider issues of personal security or identity theft. What happens when criminals start to hack into houses to disarm an alarm system before they break in or what happens with the data our smart appliances collect?
It is important to recognize the history of addiction. Recognizing the triggers and decisions that have been made is an important step towards sobriety. It is equally important to take some time to consider what our habits currently are, and what the future holds for addiction. By recognizing and monitoring internet usage, and making informed decisions about connectivity, potential future addictions can also be avoided.