Using a Smartwatch as a Tool to Recover from Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Technology is revolutionizing the art of living well. New devices improve our ability to live and to live well, virtually every day.

One of the most intriguing new digital assistants is the smart watch. This device combines the lion's share of the capabilities of a smart phone into a new and extremely portable shape that sits conveniently on the wrist.


Smartwatches are often used as fitness accessories, and this means that they often come with a wide variety of preinstalled applications for tracking action and physical activity. Or, people can customize these apps and install new ones to get the most of these accessories.

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These capabilities can often be extremely important to those in recovery from physical or mental medical conditions, as well as those seeking treatment for substance addiction.

A smartphone can be an invaluable aid and a useful tool in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction.

Health Tools

As with most technology, there are a wide variety of applications available to smartwatch users. People in recovery have their choice of many options for scheduling, support outreach, research, on-board physical monitoring apps, telehealth, and other technology-assisted treatment.

Some smartwatch apps are supported by governmental and medical programs, while others are more independent. The most connected forms of smartwatches have GPS systems inside them, allowing other users to track the location of the devices and their wearers.

Smart Watch Health Tools

On the more independent side, a smartwatch can help track heart rate, pulse oxygen saturation, and other basic indicators of physical health and well-being. This allows people to be aware of their physical state and the habits of addiction that their physical states may trigger.

Many people with diabetes or other similar conditions find smartwatches to be invaluable in the process of maintaining their health. Those dealing with addiction and addictive behavior patterns could find the smartwatch helpful as well.

A smartwatch can screen for conditions and changes in its wearer’s health. It can record decreased physical activity and accompanying diagnostic signals.

For many people, monitoring serves as motivation for better self-care and alertness to addictive behavior. It can also automatically trigger a call for medical assistance if the device detects the telltale signs of an overdose. Although this is an extreme form of intervention, it is possible with a smartwatch if a person is willing to wear it.

Smart Watch Health Tools

Scheduling Rituals and Routines

Three of the major things that many recovered and recovering addicts have reported as contributing to their success are schedule, ritual, and routine. These traditional methods of organizing and navigating the events of their everyday lives have proven useful to those attempting to put their lives back in order after substance dependency.

Ritual and routine depend, to an enormous extent, on planning and scheduling. Used correctly, a smartwatch can be a powerful scheduling and organizing tool. Whether the recovering person is trying to remember to eat at the same time every day, to follow a specific diet, to carry out specific exercises, or simply to schedule their daily life in a way they find predictable and navigable, a smartwatch can help.

Not only can a smartwatch be used to craft reminders on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, it can also set alarms and notifications to be triggered by certain physical or real-world events. This can be invaluable for recovering people, especially since a smartwatch can monitor their physical state.

Smart Watch Health Tools

People who tend to self-medicate for anxiety might receive a timely message when their heart rate goes up and stays up for a while. If people use prescription medication for chronic pain, they may find a smartwatch invaluable in reminding them when it is appropriate to use their pharmaceuticals and when it is not.

Various sensors in a smartwatch may even help to detect the subtle signs that indicate an attack of chronic pain may occur. As so many physical conditions can be resolved with advance warning and preparation, this does not only mean that chronic pain or vulnerability to addictive habits can be anticipated.

It also means that the episode may be resolved with less intervention, less invasive intervention, and sometimes even produce a complete improvement.

Smart Watch Health Tools

Communication Features

Smartwatches are remarkable communications devices, many of them with all the utility of a smartphone. Their communication capabilities can be tremendously valuable for those who need to maintain contact with their support network, whether that network may be a counselor, therapist, life coach, trusted friend, medical professional, or a combination of these.

As we understand more about addiction, we begin to see that many of the underlying conditions of addiction are physical. We understand that the maintenance of our physical health and well-being can be very helpful in avoiding addiction.

Smart Watch Health Tools

Already being used with great success in some places as a method of fighting widespread opioid addiction, telehealth has a natural partner with the smartwatch.

Such devices allow people to monitor their physical equilibrium with great specificity and provide clear metrical readings of diagnostics. This information allows people to contact their doctors when necessary and communicate their situations with them with clarity. More than that, the doctor can, when alerted to certain physical symptoms and triggers, take the first step and contact clients who are showing signs of trouble.

Finally, one should never underestimate modern technology's ability to gamify healthy activity. That is, making everyday tasks more like games could make them more fun and make it easier to complete them.

Smart Watch Health Tools

Sometimes doing something as simple as keeping an imaginary scoreboard and assigning points for actions such as exercise can help people to look after their personal health and well-being in a way that simple discipline and admonishment can’t.

Our competitive instinct can be leveraged for positive results. People might be motivated to work much harder in an imaginary competition or to maintain their position on a purely abstract leaderboard than they might when they’re left to their own devices.

There is a kernel of truth in the phrase that addiction recovery involves staying on a straight and narrow path. It doesn't take wild course corrections to stay on a narrow path. It takes constant, subtle, consistent adjustments.

Smart Watches

Tiny little touches of guidance, encouragement, and appropriate activity at the exact right time can do a lot to keep the recovering addict on that path. It can be much better than waiting for more dramatic interventions after things go really wrong.

A smartwatch can be a helpful assistant in this endeavor. The daily routine and the occasional well-timed interventions represented by a smartwatch can be a powerful force for addiction recovery. Technology has handed us a powerful new toolkit, and we are all still in the process of learning how to use the tools. A smartwatch can be a strong but subtle ally in the battle against addiction.

Patrick Bailey

Patrick Bailey


Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery.

He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 

Sources - The Use of Therapeutic Rituals in Substance Abuse Treatment - Opportunities to Address the Opioid Crisis with Telehealth - Gamification in Physical Therapy: More Than Using Games

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