Researchers Combining Money With Breathalyzers To Combat Alcoholism

Roanoke, VA - Researchers at the Virginia Tech/Carilion Research center are working to perfect two proven methods to help alcoholics stop drinking - by combining them.Research Assistant Professor Mikhail Koffarnus is working to perfect the two proven systems; two impractical systems that, together, make one complete system he believes can help people kick the bottle."It's been shown to work a number of times but isn't used in practice for a number of reasons one of them is feasibility of delivering it to people,"said Koffarnus.The first part of the system rewards sober patients by adding money to a debit card. $5 a day to start... eventually paying up to $25 a day for continued success.The problem is verifying their sobriety in a timely manner. It's not practical to have them check in every day.That's where a new device, just on the market from a company in southern California comes in. The device mixes a breathalyzer with a camera."It's a remote breathalyzer that uses cell phone towers to transmit the results immediately to a central server where we can review it," said Koffarnus.Dr. Warren Bickel, who heads up the Addiction Recovery Research Center, says proven treatments are rare to find - which is why figuring out how to implement treatments that do work is so important."I think substance abuse treatment in this country is largely pitiful," said Bickel."That's why our research program here is trying to figure out how to transform substance abuse treatments and methods to enhance treatment outcomes so we can actually help people in need."

The researchers at the Virginia Tech/Carilion Research Institute would like to see a nationwide study that includes rural areas where there are high rates of alcoholism and limited access to treatment programs.

Right now, six subjects are enrolled in the study and all six are, so far, successful.

The study was made possible by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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