technology and addiction

The Relationship Between Technology and Addiction

Published on May 4, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

In the past two decades, technology has developed to the point of influencing business, personal communication, and the internet as a resource on a daily basis. For those of us working through recovery from alcohol and/or substance use disorder, the accessibility of smartphones, laptops, and other smart devices functions as a double-edged sword.

Despite providing immediate access to mobile healthcare, the internet in conjunction with virtual forms of entertainment can, in effect, prove to be less of a tool for overcoming alcohol and/or substance addiction, and more of a replacement for the addictive mindset to crave. The fragile balance between technology’s benefits and drawbacks might never be fully understood, as the data surrounding technology addiction remains relatively new and inconclusive.

Nevertheless, staying aware of the role technology plays in our cognitive processes may assist those in recovery as they progress to leading lives of fulfillment.


The Recovery Benefits of Technology 

Especially for first responders, or anyone in recovery working long hours, the ease of access provided by internet communications can immensely improve mental health. Digital intervention exists and continues to surge in popularity as well as efficacy.

According to a 2018 review from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the implementation of virtual therapeutic software and telepsychiatry has proven beneficial for increasing alcohol and substance abstinence rates. On top of providing services to intervene and manage addiction via smartphone technology, many users can supplement their recovery with applications designed to assist with avoiding relapse through data sensors and machine learning.


The ability to remotely access mental healthcare from the convenience of one’s home or place of employment conveys major implications for depressed and/or first responder individuals in recovery. Depression affects one’s ability to seek out help, trapping those suffering from feelings of self-pity and helplessness.

First responders can deal with immense fatigue following extended work shifts. With virtual intervention and/or treatment, individuals who may be less likely to attend the actual location of a rehab clinic, doctor’s appointment, or therapy session can reap the same benefits of physically attending a session via digital communications.

The opportunity to connect with a trained professional during times of crisis can be life-altering. By providing immediacy and convenience of mental wellness, virtual therapeutic software prioritizes destigmatizing the act of seeking help. Adding an application to your smartphone alongside everyday functions like email, weather, and social media normalizes the act of developing a consistent coping strategy. 


The Drawbacks of Technology During Recovery

Internet-aided recovery, like any platform responsible for digitizing an entire industry, has the potential to exclude a significant number of users who might benefit from the service provided. Many cannot afford the internet, or live in locations where accessing the internet is challenging, if not impossible.

Although online services may extend inclusivity to those unable to attend specific locations, they require smart devices as well as internet access. Particularly within lower-class income demographics, the prospect of maintaining online resources are not as realistic as those with more disposable income. The medium also raises difficulties for those without permanent shelter, along with individuals lacking the skills required to interface with modern technology.


Furthermore, the issue of data security and privacy can alter the results and usefulness of therapy. Remaining anonymous while making a treatment call can be a key element for many.

Maintaining the trust of participants establishes a sense of freedom from judgment as individuals take their crucial first steps towards recovery. Asking users to place their vulnerability in a website or application may lead to under or over-exaggerated answers to critical intake questions. 


The distancing created by online communications might reduce the degree to which therapy can apply an empathetic, human element to recovery. Transmitting data from a user to a data storage system opens the door to predatory data mining for marketing.

Even as the intent of virtual care and intervention aims to transparently provide care, the fact remains that we live in a time when data breaches occur with regularity. The very nature of recovery demands trust and vulnerability from all parties. Any software no matter how thoroughly designed faces ethical health privacy concerns.


Lastly, technology addiction is in the early stages of medical classification, but even in its infancy, early studies have hinted that internet use may replace the role of alcohol or substances for individuals seeking mental health treatment. According to a 2017 NCBI study, one in five subjects seeking treatment for psychiatry problems displayed signs of possible addiction to their mobile phone, with 16% using the internet as a means of escaping negative feelings resulting from emotional coping during treatment.

While the use of internet treatment can expand the reach of mental healthcare, the form by which this care occurs might actually be a trigger for addiction, thereby replacing one addictive outlet for another.


The field of addiction recovery will inevitably evolve as society changes. The benefits of utilizing technology-based treatments are encouraging and exciting for those in recovery and providers alike.

However, we all need to weigh the power of the internet within our society. Remember that the strength to overcome addiction can be assisted with resources, but the connection with internal empowerment ultimately nurtures and restores all other behavior.


Addiction recovery is a gradual process in collaboration with highly-trained and professional doctors, therapists, and general staff. At First Responders Wellness, we provide individualized care and customized treatment programs to help you along your path to recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at 888-743-0490.