Breaking free from alcohol and drug dependence

Finalist category: Digital Health Award 2014


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Finalist, 2014

Breaking Free has developed a pioneering internet-based treatment programme for substance misuse difficulties which enables people to overcome alcohol and drug dependence.

Breaking Free Online is a genuine world-first in that it goes far beyond basic information or self-help to offer people a fully comprehensive treatment programme that they can access online at their own convenience. Crucially, it allows people to recognise and actively address the underlying psychological and lifestyle issues that are causing them to keep drinking or using drugs, having been designed by a team of substance misuse specialists and psychologists already working in the field.

Through structured assessment and proven, evidence based techniques, Breaking Free are able to compile a plan personalised to each user, which they can refer to 24 hours a day at their own convenience and kept entirely confidential to them, opening up an entirely new treatment pathway for the cravings which lead to substance misuse (which after all can afflict us at any time of day). By using digital technology users are also able to utilise Google Maps to identify risky places that could trigger cravings and urges to drink/use drugs on a map of their own neighbourhood. They can then plan out in advance how they can avoid or cope positively with these situations.

Customers today include many of the specialist alcohol and drug action teams within the NHS, whilst Breaking Free has also had significant traction with groups most often excluded from any form of treatment and left most vulnerable to the impact that addiction can cause. For example, at the Chapman-Barker Unit, an inpatient detox unit in Manchester, the programme is helping service users to avoid relapse when they make the very difficult transition back home, following discharge. In homeless hostels in London run by the St Mungo’s charity, Breaking Free Online is being used by staff not only to help service users begin to address their substance misuse, but to also overcome the digital exclusion and computer illiteracy that prevents many homeless people from applying for jobs and benefits online and so integrating into wider society.

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