The Parternership at drugfree.org (16/10/2012) By Celia Vimont
Web-based programs are proving to be an innovative and powerful
adjunct to addiction treatment, according to an expert on internet
treatment strategies. However, they are not meant to replace
face-to-face addiction treatment, notes Paul Radkowski, CEO/Clinical Director at Life Recovery Program in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Internet addiction programs range from web-based education
interventions, to self-guided web-based therapeutic programs, to
human-supported web-based therapies, Radkowski explained at the recent
annual meeting of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).
“Addiction is a 24/7 issue, and requires 24/7 solutions. Internet
programs can help address that need. They are not meant to replace
face-to-face modalities, which provide support and accountability, but
can supplement them,” Radkowski said.
While research on online programs for addiction treatment is still in
a relatively early stage, some studies have suggested it is a promising
area, he states. One study of computer-delivered interventions for alcohol and tobacco use
concluded that computer-delivered treatments that can be accessed via
the Internet may represent a cost-effective means of treating
uncomplicated substance use and related problems. Another study of a brief personalized Internet-based program for problem drinkers found it reduced alcohol consumption for about six months.
Online programs can be especially helpful for people waiting for
treatment slots in publicly funded programs, he noted. “With increasing
budget cuts in Canada as well as the U.S., the supply for traditional
forms of treatment is decreasing, while the demand is increasing,” he
said. “Online programs are a way to get people started while they wait
for traditional treatment.” Internet programs can be very helpful to
people living in rural areas, who do not have easy access to in-person
They also can be appealing to some people who don’t seek face-to-face
treatment because of the stigma of having a substance use disorder.
A growing number of treatment programs are using online components as
part of aftercare, either through support groups or online contact with
counselors, Radkowski noted.
One obvious appeal of online programs is their lower cost compared
with face-to-face programs, he said. “Of course, for someone not
medically stable, or with complicated issues, more intensive in-person
treatment is needed.”
An additional benefit of Internet programs is that a person can
review information repeatedly online, whenever they feel they need it,
Radkowski pointed out. “When someone is struggling in the dark hours of
the night, and doesn’t know what to do, they can go online, and it helps
The online program at Radkowski’s agency, the Life Recovery Program,
includes a series of modules released every two weeks, along with
behavioral contracts and peer support forums. “We took what worked with
us on the front line, and put it online,” he said.