TECH BALLAD: How health care applications help addicts move from dependency to recovery

As a society, we face many challenges, and it is no secret that one of the most prevalent is addiction. Opioid addiction is one of the most dangerous and destructive aspects of these behaviors, affecting many facets of our social landscape, from individual health and well-being to pressure on already overloaded infrastructure. This is a problem that has become so worrying that in 2018, the FDA presented technology developers with an innovation challenge to contribute to prevention and treatment.

Historically, our responses to this problem have not been particularly subtle – brutal changes to forced rehabilitation legislation in the context of sentencing. More recently, we have committed to deepening the understanding and treatment of the personal aspects of addiction, finding solutions that address the root causes, and encouraging the maintenance of healthy lifestyles throughout recovery. As we took more care to treat the addict, we also found more useful and effective approaches to the issue as a whole, including the recognition that the addict must be helped to help himself.

In recent decades, as technology has become more integrated into our lives, it has become clear that this can offer an additional tool to help addicts. According to Brandon Bergman, associate director of the Recovery Research Institute at Harvard Medical School, 11% of adults who have solved their addiction problem have already done so using an online technology specifically dedicated to addiction. While continuing to improve our overall lifestyle through artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), including their integration into our health systems, we are also discovering new opportunities to help the most vulnerable among us.

Initial access to help

Access to help is one of the most difficult aspects for any addict, beyond this first recognition of the problem. Modern expertise tends to make addiction a disease, recognizing that it can alter the structure and function of the brain, making it particularly difficult for an addict to defeat without professional assistance.

Access to treatment can weigh heavily on the physical, mental, emotional and financial resources of the patient, but there are resources to help overcome these particular barriers.

The first fully evidence-based addiction management platform in development, A-Chess, was created by the University of Washington. While the application includes features that assist addicts throughout the rehabilitation and recovery process, it also includes an electronic response system that identifies appropriate local treatment providers and provides electronic referrals accordingly. In addition to helping to solve this administrative problem, it also provides the addict with videos and motivational messages, designed to remove barriers to treatment.

Of course, there are times when access to hospital treatment is not possible, either financially or because of other commitments. While inpatient treatment and support is a preferred approach, it is certainly possible to obtain cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is effective for online addiction. Evidence suggests that the technological delivery of these services is comparable to in-person therapy and that addicts now have access to online therapeutic services, alongside e-books and audiobooks that can guide them through the process.

The recovery process

One of the problems facing recovering drug addicts is that once they have completed a structured rehabilitation program, they often do not receive the full and vital follow-up assistance they need to continue their healthy recovery. This is a problem that is made more difficult by the already overloaded resources of the medical community. But remember that recovery is often a time of significant stress and vulnerability for patients. As a result, we have seen software designed to help patients recover in the treatment of addictions.

Pear reSet and reSet-O (specifically for opioid dependence) have been approved by the FDA as a therapeutic, prescription-based tool for outpatients. Throughout the 90- and 84-day programs respectively, the apps help guide patients throughout the recovery process by providing additional activities designed to strengthen the CBT received during treatment. A clinical trial conducted with 399 users in 2017 showed that patients using the application had a higher abstinence rate (40.3%) than those who did not use it (17.6%). %).

Sober Grid is one of the most comprehensive community-based approaches in the field. This free app was developed by addicts seeking support for sober communities in their area. The app connects people in recovery with other sober people in their community using geosocial networks to ensure that users, whether they are at home or on the move, have access addiction support resources. It also provides users with daily quests to reinforce their sober habits, an information exchange area to share information about community addiction and 24/7 access to coaches. certified.

Physical and mental health during remission

Recovery is not just about getting rid of the specific problems of substance dependence. Part of the solution to getting rid of the problems that lead to addictive behavior is to ensure a holistic balance – mental, emotional and physical. By researching methods to support this approach, patients are discovering new ways to use technology in their growing toolbox for personal care.

Some evidence suggests that a successful recovery from an addiction may be more effective if it is supported by regular physical exercise. The rise of IoT has led to new options for combining apparel technologies such as Fitbit and Apple Watch with applications that allow users to accurately monitor their physical health, allowing drug users to return taking into account their health status as they recover and defining key achievable milestones. strengthen their confidence.

Nor should the importance of the patient-patient relationship be underestimated, as IA provides potential benefits for interactions between health professionals and drug users. Through services such as Fitbit Care, the information obtained from these device / application combinations can also be shared with physicians and psychiatric health workers to ensure effective lifestyle changes and to plan for future direction of treatment.

Services such as Headspace, which can help addicts with meditation techniques that can help track addiction symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, have also provided a technological boost to mental and emotional well-being. While applications such as iMoodJournal can help users monitor their mood transitions in real time, providing them with personal information about triggering events and times during which they may require assistance. extra to prevent a possible relapse.

As we deepen the root causes of addiction, we find that alongside the use of a substance, there may be many underlying issues specific to the addict. The increasing personalization of technology and our ability to share and analyze large amounts of data help uncover new solutions to help addicts throughout the treatment and recovery process. However, we must also ensure a responsible and balanced approach that does not lead to excessive reliance on technology for long-term remission.

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