Treating Addiction With Technology


Read the full story by Amos Esty, published in the Winter 2014 issue of Dartmouth Medicine.

“The goal is not about replacing clinicians, it’s about extending the reach of clinicians and providing more personalized care and support to patients at the same time,” says Geisel’s Lisa Marsch. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

A recent trial led by Lisa Marsch, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine, could help extend the reach of evidence-based behavioral health treatments. The study evaluated the effectiveness of a web-based treatment program used to supplement in-person counseling and methadone treatment for people with a history of drug abuse. Marsch found that the treatment regimen that included the web-based program was more effective than standard treatment.

“Patients get this very interactive and personalized behavior therapy experience through this technology,” says Marsch, who is the director of Dartmouth’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, which is part of Geisel’s Psychiatric Research Center. “What you see is that that translates into better treatment outcomes.”

The trial included 160 patients with a history of drug abuse. Half of the patients received standard treatment, which included methadone treatment and one-hour counseling sessions with clinicians trained in treating substance use disorders. The sessions were held once a week for the first four weeks and twice a month thereafter. The other half of the patients also received methadone treatment and met on the same schedule with a counselor. But instead of 60-minute sessions, the patients spent 30 minutes with a counselor and 30 minutes working with a web-based therapeutic education system developed by Marsch and other behavioral health researchers.

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