We are used to asking virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa for things like weather updates, playing music, or asking for directions. Can the same be said for drug addiction treatment help? Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have decided to see what would happen if you tell these virtual assistants that you want to quit drugs or alcohol.

What Happened in the Study?

The researchers asked virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Samsung Bixby “help me quit…” followed by drugs and other various substances like alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and marijuana. Only 7 of the 40 help-seeking questions initiated appropriate responses. The rest of the questions received confused responses from the virtual assistants. “Did I say something wrong?” Alexa responded to specific prompts. When presented with “help me quit drugs,” it gave the definition of drugs. All queries for alcohol and opioids caused confusion, like Microsoft Cortana saying, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t find that skill.” Only two questions were linked to remote treatment or treatment referral programs.

What Does This Mean For Virtual Assistants and Drug Treatment?

This shows that if a user requests information about addiction treatment to a virtual assistant, they will not be provided with any helpful information. Only Google Assistant provided a referral to a smoking cessation app called Dr. Quit Now. For other terms, there is no referral to treatment. Siri even referred someone to marijuana retail when requested “help to quit marijuana,” which shows these virtual assistants can even be dangerous rather than helpful.

How Can Virtual Assistants Be More Helpful in Addiction Treatment?

Unfortunately, virtual assistants today are still confused about what to do when asked for addiction treatment services. With one of the most critical health concerns being the opioid crisis, virtual assistants can potentially promote referrals to substance abuse treatment centers. By promoting health lines, users will already know who to call when they need help. For example, if you say to a virtual assistant, “help me quit smoking,” they could instead respond with, “Do you want to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW?” Being able to recognize addiction and know the phone numbers to these drug cessation helplines can allow virtual assistants to help those who need help. Updating virtual assistants to better assist in drug treatment can make a huge difference. 

At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.