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Is Home Alcohol Testing A Recovery Game Changer

15 November 2016 Written by 

If you don’t test, you won’t find, is the credo of Dr. Michel Sucher, a leader in addiction medicine and a monitoring pioneer who has been treating the illness for 25 years. What people don’t know is that addiction is highly treatable, Dr. Sucher told me in an interview recently; and monitoring is a key component for success.

This is why monitoring makes the difference. 

“Among the whole spectrum of chronic diseases, addiction is the only illness that with treatment, lifestyle changes and support, you can get weller than well. You can’t say that about any other chronic illness.”

Medical testing is a crucial component of the continuum of care in other chronic relapsing disease like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but remission doesn’t bring redemption. With substance use disorders (like alcohol), however, remission (which means the patient is not using) allows people to restore their lives and become better than they were before their disease took hold. “I have heard hundreds of stories of redemption,” Dr. Sucher told me. That’s what he means by weller than well.

Demonstration of How Monitoring Works

A strong champion for alcohol and other drug monitoring, especially the Soberlink breathalyzer, Dr. Sucher had a chance to demonstrate to me just how Soberlink works during our interview. As we were talking, his phone dinged, alerting him to a patient’s possible alcohol use the night before. This patient, he told me, had been using the breathalyzer device for several years and occasionally had a bout of drinking. That morning she had a reading on her device that sent a red flag to her doctor. In less than a minute Dr. Sucher had contacted his office to schedule both a second test and an office visit for the patient. 

Instant Results Meant Instant Response

The patient blew into the device at 8am, and a treatment assessment was in the works immediately. “Clients like the device because it’s small, it just takes a second. You get instant results of positive test and can step in right away before anybody gets hurt. Families love it, because they know what’s going on and don’t have to act as police to their loved ones,” Dr. Sucher added. 

Monitoring Is The Continuum Of Disease Management 

Alcohol is the most common relapse drug and the most difficult to detect, Dr. Sucher went on. “Before Soberlink, a significant number of my patients were drinking without my being able to tell. With urine testing, it took several days to get results, and the tests couldn’t detect lower levels, so a positive reading like the one we just had a few minutes ago would not have been possible. And you couldn’t test multiple times a day, the way you can with Soberlink. Now I have a higher level of confidence that a patient’s slip in the evening won’t fall through the cracks in the morning.” The only way to be certain that a illness is in remission is to test for it. A clean bill of health makes employers and family members rest easy that recovery is going well.

When To Start Monitoring

Dr. Sucher says breathalyzer monitoring from the very beginning of all substance use treatment and during aftercare is just like medical testing for any chronic disease and produces a higher success rate than for patients who don’t have monitoring. At home testing that keeps the addiction professional in the loop is a simple and effective game-changing tool that brings 90 percent effectiveness in keeping patients on their recovery path

Michel A. Sucher, MD FASAM FACEP also serves as the Medical Director of the Monitored Aftercare Programs for the Arizona Medical Board, the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners, and the State Bar of Arizona. Dr. Sucher is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and is the Immediate Past President of the Arizona Chapter of ASAM.

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by: Leslie Glass


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass is the winner of the American Society of Addiction Medicine 2016 Media Award for her groundbreaking documentary "The Secret World Of Recovery." She is a journalist, playwright, the author of 15 novels and the founder of Reach Out Recovery. She is the producer/director of "The Secret World Of Recovery," and the teen addiction prevention documentary "The Silent Majority" which was distributed by American Public Television to all PBS stations in 2015. Leslie is currently developing more websites and technology to further the recovery and healthy living cause.
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