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Stepping Away from Alcohol Use Problems

Stepping Away from Alcohol Use Problems

Running back Ricky Williams gave up his 11-year NFL career, saying “Playing in the National Football League, you're told… where to be, when to be there, what to wear, how to be there. Being able to step away from that, I have an opportunity to look deeper into myself and look for what's real.”

Sometimes the bravest and smartest move is to step away -- and that’s exactly what folks with alcohol-use problems who opt for a new, free smartphone app called Step Away are trying to do.

The app’s developer, Patrick Dulin, Ph.D., from the University of Alaska Anchorage, presented his findings at this year’s annual Telemedicine meeting: A six-week pilot study enrolled 28 people with alcohol use problems -- they drank at least 21 drinks per week for men and 14 drinks for women. Step Away led them through 10 intervention steps designed to enhance coping, maintain motivation for change, provide connection to supportive others and increase their sense of control over alcohol. The results? Participants cut the number of drinks per day in half and their days of no drinking at all went from 30% to 55%.

Alcohol-intervention programs are often hit-or-miss the first (second, or third) time -- but this app may boost success when combined with more traditional 12-step programs. And it offers support for people who can’t get to or don’t want to attend in-person alcohol-recovery groups. So if you’re trying to stop or reduce your drinking, this is certainly worth a try. Your liver and your loved ones will thank you.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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