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Substance Use Disorder, a Complex Illness That Spreads in Isolation

Continuing on the theme of this year’s National Recovery Month, Celebrating Connections, CHESS Health recognizes the danger that isolation can pose to those in recovery. Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a complex illness that spreads in isolation. Our mission is to promote real and lasting recovery by leveraging technology to create and maintain connection and offer proactive support to mitigate crisis. Our platform is a powerful, proven solution to the problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent article describing the effect of the coronavirus on those with SUD, Dr. Timmen L. Cermak, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction treatment, explains why isolation makes a deadly disease even deadlier. He says that recovery for SUD patients depends on the ability to escape isolation and “become a member of a recovering community.”[1] At CHESS Health, we believe that in these challenging times, finding new ways to create and maintain connections with recovery communities has never been more imperative.

While those in recovery can certainly continue to turn to conference approved literature, online 12-step meetings, and phone calls with supportive peers, apps offer real-time connections. Digitizing these critical recovery tools and adding the ability to send an alert in a crisis serves as a powerful resource in a patient’s recovery journey. Connections was designed not only for connecting patients to their peers and worldwide recovery community, but also to provide them with motivation, organization, and therapeutic content to bolster resilience during what we know is a difficult and deadly time.

According to an article from the Harvard Medical School, “A tale of two epidemics: When COVID-19 and opioid addiction collide,” people suffering from addiction are more vulnerable to this virus, primarily due to social determinants of health (SDOH).[2] The CDC defines these as the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play [which] affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.” This does not merely refer to things like social gatherings or unsanitary environments, but also issues like lung and cardiovascular health, as well as possible illnesses that have left patients immunocompromised as a result of their struggle with SUDs. This vulnerable population has now suffered the loss of many important support services as a result of the pandemic, and many do not have the luxury of safely self-isolating. Those seeking the invaluable emotional and spiritual support of a recovery community may feel that they have no recourse. But that’s no longer the case. With technology like the Connections app, those living with SUD have the assistance and access they need when they need it most.

The Connections App equips patients with tools like eTherapy, recovery tracking, journaling, and personalized reminders. eTherapy provides patients with digital cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) whenever and wherever they need it. This feature contains engaging videos and quizzes to help build and strengthen vital coping skills. Research shows that ongoing digital access to CBT contributes to greater abstinence than does TAU (treatment as usual) alone.[3] These tools lead to 31% fewer relapses and a 50% reduction in the severity of relapses that do occur. This level of expanded access and continued support is critical in the modern rehabilitation efforts of this vulnerable community.

The Connections App is an incredibly valuable tool for patients who find themselves in a difficult fight for recovery during the pandemic. In this digital age, social distancing is not an excuse for a lapse in support services for those living with SUD. CHESS Health offers access to both professional and peer-driven support 24/7, whenever and wherever patients need it. The CHESS Health Platform can empower them to continue progressing in their recoveries, regardless of current isolation.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-addiction/202003/coronavirus-and-addiction

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-tale-of-two-epidemics-when-covid-19-and-opioid-addiction-collide-2020042019569

[3] https://www.chess.health/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Trial-1-Initial-Results.pdf