The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature and effects of exchanging emotional support via a smartphone-based support group for patients with alcohol dependence. Of the 349 patients who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) criteria for alcohol dependence, 153 patients participated in the discussion group within the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System, a smartphone application aimed at reducing relapse. This was developed to prevent problem drinking by offering individuals in recovery for alcohol dependence automated 24/7 recovery support services and frequent assessment of their symptom status as part of their addiction care. The results showed that receiving emotional support from health care providers improved coping self-efficacy. Giving emotional support and receiving emotional support from health care providers acted as a buffer, protecting patients from the harmful effects of emotional distress on risky drinking. Clinicians and researchers should use the features of smartphone-based support groups to reach out to alcoholic patients in need and encourage them to participate in the exchange of emotional support with others.

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Published in Health Informatics Journal, v. 26, issue 3.

© The Author(s) 2019

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

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This study was supported by grant R01 AA017192 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.