Online Substance Abuse Counseling: Telehealth for Addiction

Online substance abuse counseling known as Telehealth, is a generic term that applies to both clinical and non-clinical utilization of technology, like making appointments online. Telemedicine pertains particularly to clinical uses of long-distance technology, like diagnosing a patient via phone.

 The old days of telephones and radio started the idea that this new technology could help individuals receive medical advice and counseling. Doctors were able to communicate with patients remotely over the phone or vessels at sea through their radio. As for substance abuse treatment centers in remote regions, Telemedicine is used regularly. 

Video and the Internet

Audio-based technology like telephones and radio expanded the degree to which doctors could assist patients, but not as easy as today. The arrival of shareable video made it more possible, and the introduction of the internet presented a platform where patients could contact their specialists instantly. 

Both audio and video can be streamed through the internet, allowing specialists to access patients they otherwise couldn’t reach.

The Need for Online Substance Abuse Counseling in the U.S.

In contrast to other healthcare fields, substance abuse treatment doesn’t have a significant technology element. Telehealth technologies still need to be implemented on a universal scale within addiction recovery programs. 

But, studies have shown that the benefits of telehealth have the potential to modify and enhance treatment. Specialists can rehabilitate substance abuse patients and can also help in reducing the number of individuals impacted by the substance abuse crisis in the United States.

In recent times, substance addiction has frequently become a deadly epidemic that continues to impact many U.S. citizens negatively. The abuse of opioids like prescription pain killers and illegal “street drugs” like fentanyl and heroin, has tormented the lives of many. It has been stated that over 66% of the 63,600 overdose deaths in the U.S. were generated by opioids in 2016.  

Still to this day, drug overdoses continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death. With over 2 million Americans currently abusing or dependent on opioids, steps must continuously be put in place to resist this lethal matter.

Government-owned and private addiction treatment clinics, overdose-combative medicine, and other substance abuse recovery resolutions have been implemented across the nation. Healthcare professionals, politicians, and drug abuse advocates are all working hard to spread addiction awareness. 

The numerous actions currently in place are leading this form of technology in the right direction towards a healthier and safer society. Studies have stated that online substance abuse counseling has the potential to help in addiction recovery. 

This is especially true for patients rehabbing from substance abuse disorders. Telehealth is severely underutilized in addiction treatment and rehab centers.

Behavioral Telehealth

Telehealth and mental health blend well, allowing addiction counselors to hold sessions online instead of face-to-face. Some addiction treatment facilities are leveraging this method in treating chemical dependencies in their patients. However, some individuals might contrarily avoid addiction treatment due to time commitment. 

Therefore, online or phone opportunities allow them to receive help while continuing to maintain vital life activities like school, work, or caring for loved ones.

Seemingly digital services like text message appointment reminders decrease dropout rates in addiction rehab programs. Treatment specialists can use these features, not only to perform ordinary tasks like reminders but to further interact with their patients. 

Reaching out to those in recovery can help keep them responsible and on track, where they contrarily they may have slipped back into substance-abusing habits.

Specific Methodologies

The two most frequent uses of Telehealth for addiction medication include:

  • Computer Screenings
  • Text message contact

Although less flashy than video conferencing, these implementations of technology in the addiction treatment process conclusively increase the amount of in-person time possible between patients and counselors. The analysis shows that Telehealth works excellently in circumstances where it makes addiction treatment. 

Rather than patients refraining or evading a therapy appointment, they’ll receive a text that reminds and encourages them. Rather than addiction counselors spending time collecting demographic data and other information, patients can fill out computer screening applications previously.

Stopping smoking is one of the more traditional themes of addiction Telehealth. The universality of cigarettes, when compared to illicit drugs, can tempt long-time smokers back into that habit when living out their everyday lives. Having access to online resources can hold them accountable and urge them to continue working with care specialists to succeed in their journey to addiction recovery.

The Importance of Telehealth for Addiction

The field of addiction treatment offers an excellent opportunity for telemedicine use. Due to addiction being a chronic disorder, specialists need ways to keep in touch with patients over extended periods.

Because telemedicine eliminates the barriers of distance and time, it has exceptional potential for expanding treatment and recovery for individuals with substance use disorders. It also gives medical staff ways to improve contact with addiction patients during residential treatment and during outpatient treatment.

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, improves a patient’s access to services and allows necessary support when triggers occur. In-person contacts between specialists and patients are limited to scheduled meetings or group sessions.

Telemedicine programs that transmit health information from one place to another establish new relationships between patients and providers. It gives patients a feeling that their addiction is being regarded as more intimately and gives them the ability to take part in their treatment plan while knowing their doctor hasn’t forgotten them.

Telemedicine Eliminates Barriers

By eliminating the barriers of geography, time, stigma, and geography, telemedicine can increase opportunities for addiction treatment services. 

  • Patients in rural regions who previously drove long distances can now obtain addiction treatment services in the comfort of their own homes. 
  • Patients can also evade the sensed shame of being seen as an addiction treatment patient.
  • Counselors are usually unavailable when the patient needs them most, outside of the treatment structure. Telemedicine increases the provider’s availability and provides patients immediate support.

Electronic Treatment Programs Through Phones and Online 

Telephone-Based Care

This is the most ancient approach; it is already being used to implement continuing care for substance abuse. Continuous care, delivered by telephone, is easy to place into practice and doesn’t require any extra costs like licensing fees or patient education. Telephone-based services include communications monitoring, counseling, and feedback. 

Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) Technology 

This is an intensified version of telephone-based services. During IVR, a computerized telephone system accommodates patients with several follow-up and feedback topics based on their responses to pre-set questions. 

Throughout studies, IVR was determined to decrease post-outpatient treatment alcohol-consuming but only for patients who had completed their treatment goals before being discharged.

Web-Based Telemedicine

Web-based services are accessible to many patients who can access them at any time they desire. There are many web-based apps for substance addiction evaluation. Usually, web-based telemedicine services are effective in decreasing alcohol consumption, particularly for non-student populations.

Videoconferencing

Psychotherapy videoconferencing for or addiction treatment transpires via specific portals on computers or dedicated telemedicine devices. 

Videoconferencing currently practiced in addiction treatment include:

  • Video therapy- Patients can interact with treatment specialists from a remote location.
  • Recovery supports- An addiction treatment specialist communicates with a patient in recovery.
  • Specialty services- Patients can contact medical specialists, such as a physician who can prescribe medications.

Studies of videoconferencing for substance addiction have produced the same results of care, whether it was provided in person or through video.

  • Mobile devices- Tablets and smartphones make support for substance addiction treatment available 24/7. Initial analysis of mobile devices in health care revealed that the positive effects had been primarily associated with texting interventions in mobile apps. Tablets and smartphones have related services like telephones, web-based, and videoconferencing services.
  • Virtual worlds and avatars- Corporations design virtual surroundings for individual treatment companies. The virtual world is preserved and accessible only by individuals with an access code and password. Treatment services offered in the virtual world offer presentations, group, or individual counseling, and a live therapist is interacting with patients through an avatar. The virtual world provides unified communication between patients and treatment specialists.

Implementing Telemedicine with Substance Abuse Counseling

In-person communications with patients and providers are the primary way counselors, and therapists have initiated behavioral therapy and substance abuse treatment. Although in-person counseling has demonstrated to be efficient, telehealth allows a new opportunity in the field of substance abuse counseling.

Some ways that healthcare providers utilize telehealth with addiction treatment include:

Using Telemedicine to Complement Services

It’s not an entirely new way of practicing and must be practiced as a complement to addiction treatment. Once an in-person relationship has been established with patients, telemedicine helps in maintaining the relationship. It additionally fits for interventions along with progress updates.

Numerous digital health programs developed around substance addiction treatment include behavioral health components that serve as remote therapy for patients. This also helps to improve the result of in-office treatment.

Allows Patients to Feel in Control

Telemedicine influences patients that their health is in their power. Patients are questioned about what they believe is useful and what they want to change. By communicating with patients in their surroundings, it makes it more comfortable for them to show ambition in their own health choices while encouraging them to contact their therapist when needed.

Outline and Act on Trends

Patients can discuss with their providers regarding their condition instantly and efficiently. Those using telemedicine for regular check-ins, it is simpler to get a comprehensive reading of the patient’s everyday life and act on problems immediately. This allows for a better possibility of addressing issues before they begin.

Understanding Patient Comorbidity

Treating various health issues at once is a challenge. Many addictions start as a result of mental and physical health conditions, like chronic pain. Telemedicine is a valuable tool for the continuous care of any kind. It works as a means of maintaining the quality of care and prevents severe conditions from becoming more significant in a patient’s life.

Consolidate Tracking and Action

Telemedicine may be used to generate healthy behavior patterns. By consolidating monitor and response, a continuation of care becomes strengthened, and patients realize how treatment assists in solving problems. Some essential behavior-based apps and programs teach patients how to take control of their lifestyle changes. Once new, healthy habits become based on communication, patients profit from constant contact and encouragement.

Get Help Today 

If you or a loved one suffers from substance abuse, the time is now to get the answers you seek. Here at Unity Behavioral Health, our team of specialists can help. With offered substance addiction rehabilitation services like medical detox treatment, residential and outpatient treatment, and Telehealth services, we can help in gaining back a healthy, sober lifestyle. 

Contact us today and allow our team to assist in beginning the journey to recovery.