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Drinking Deaths, ID’ing DUI and a Sobriety App

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Drinking Deaths, ID’ing DUI and a Sobriety App

The dangers of alcohol, keeping drinkers off the road and evaluating apps for staying sober

David Cassidy does not look well. Check out his photo on MSN’s Wonderwall and the article there detailing his latest DUI arrest. I thought of him when I read about deaths from car crashes no alcoholwhere drinking is involved, and also because there’s a new laser device for law enforcement that should help identify people driving drunk so that hopefully more of them will be stopped. As I put the finishing touches on this post, Michael Phelps announced he was entering treatment after being arrested again for driving while under the influence. Kudos, Michael, for recognizing how important your sobriety is, and David, people’s thoughts are with you. Would that both of you have given someone, somewhere, the motivation to take that first step.

Alcohol Kills

A New York Times blogger points out that “Alcohol Remains a Leading Killer,” as if that fact may be lost on some of us due to the attention paid to the opioid epidemic and overdoses that result in death. The blogger points out that the CDC attributes 10 percent of deaths in the U.S. among working-age adults to alcohol, “ranging from car crashes and alcohol poisoning to liver and heart disease.”

None of this surprises me or probably anyone in the treatment community, but I know why it’s newsworthy. We have to keep hammering home the toll alcohol takes to try and change behavior. Here’s another frightening fact from the article: “Excessive drinking is the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the United States, after smoking, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.”

New Laser Device for Detecting Drunk Drivers

Huffpost reported that Polish researchers have developed a laser device that can test someone’s breath — “alcohol vapors” — in a car passing by. Unfortunately, it could mean that a passenger has been drinking or that a bottle has spilled, but it’s a big step forward from what we have now — police going on whether a car is driving erratically. Here’s a reference linking to the original journal article.

New App to Help People Stay Sober?

In April, I posted on the Brentwood House blog about an app that is supposed to help people stay sober. “The app, which took six years to develop, is called A-CHESS, for Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System, and sends support messages every day and weekly questions designed to help counselors assess the person’s struggle. It also tracks their location and sends an alert if they’re in a bar, although it wasn’t clear to me if that goes to both the counselor and the person. Finally, there’s a panic button that allows the user to access reminders, distractions, or a support person like a sponsor.”

I went on to note that a researcher said “apps like A-CHESS are the way of the future,” and indeed we’re already seeing the growth of another, Sobergrid. This app allows people to connect with a group of people who also identify themselves as sober. The website says “You can find a friend to meet for coffee, go to a meeting, or just find a sober person to do a social activity with.” It also mentions meeting people while you’re traveling.

On the surface this may sound like a good idea, but I have big reservations, so this is a warning rather than a recommendation. It’s new, and here’s what I’m wondering. Who’s behind it, do they screen, what security is there for members? Is there any way of knowing how long each member has been sober?  Anyone can develop an app today, and anyone is. People see dollar signs when they think of developing one.

To me, Sobergrid sounds like Meetup or online dating services, with the same dangers. Will we be reading about this in the news lately for members being set up and robbed, or worse? These developers have a lot to prove to be credible. It sounds a heck of a lot safer to meet people in your local AA meetings if you don’t live close to people you attended treatment with.

I began this post with David Cassidy, who’s seen better times. I’ll end with TV anchor Pat O’Brien, who had a very public battle with alcoholism, and was interviewed for a short piece in NYT Magazine titled “How to Recover From Alcoholism”, where he gave his take on recovery:

“You just have to stay at it. Fall in love with recovery. Listen to other voices outside your own. …. At some point, you’ll get down on your knees and say, “God Help Me.” And God will. The universe delivers.”

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