New mobile app helps people reduce or quit drinking

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A new mobile app developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) offers those who want to reduce or quit drinking alcohol the ability to track and manage their drinking habits.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health concern, leading to over 200 diseases and injuries. In May 2014, the World Health Organization released a report that showed Canadians drink more than the global average, with 23 per cent of drinkers engaging in binge drinking.

Saying When App

The new app, called Saying When, is a mobile version of a self-monitoring program pioneered by Dr. Martha Sanchez-Craig while a Senior Scientist at the former Addiction Research Foundation (now CAMH). Previously a paper-based manual, the program is clinically sound and has helped people cut back or quit drinking successfully for over 25 years.

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“We’ve been waiting for the technology to catch up to this program,” said Wayne Skinner, Deputy Clinical Director at CAMH. “The ability to discreetly track and monitor urges and consumption in real time will help people who are concerned about their drinking be successful with their goal to reduce or abstain.”

Saying When is designed for people who are concerned about their drinking, but who do not have a severe alcohol use disorder.

On launch, Saying When app users are presented with a tour of the app’s features, including an introduction to Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines developed by the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee. Before moving on to track urges and consumption, app users will complete a section called “Taking Stock” to help determine current drinking patterns and set a baseline for future success.

“Recent studies have shown that entertainment- based apps including drinking recipes or drinking games are the most common type of alcohol-related app,” said Tim Tripp, Director, Library Services & Knowledge Mobilization at CAMH. “To our knowledge, Saying When is the only mobile tool based on an established clinical program that helps people monitor their drinking and efforts to cut back or quit.”

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To make personal tracking easy and precise, the Saying When app describes and defines standard drinks through info-graphics. Each drink entered is measured when the app user fills the interactive glass and determines how many standard drinks they have consumed.

Throughout the tracking process, the app is programmed to offer tips for success as the user makes progress. The coping section of the app also provides users with the opportunity to learn what strategies work best for them as they rank the success of each one over time.

“Many people are motivated to change their drinking behaviour,” said Skinner. “Saying When gives them a way to do so on their own or, if they are getting help, to set goals and keep track of how they are doing, day by day. Having a mobile version of this resource will allow us to reach and help more people.”

The Saying When app is now available for purchase in the iTunes store.