Recovery From Addiction? There’s an App for That
People rely on technology more and more to make their lives easier, but can it help with addiction recovery? A growing number of digital health and biopharma giants think so, and as of recently, the FDA has shown it agrees.
For years there have been apps for food delivery, appointment scheduling, and dating, but now finally in September 2017, the agency approved the first-ever prescription mobile medical app to help people with substance abuse disorders. The Reset device is designed by Pear Therapeutics and received the green light to assist in outpatient therapy for cocaine, marijuana, and stimulant addiction. Of note, the device is not cleared to treat opioid dependence.
The app leverages a form of treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a hands-on approach that champions goals, practical skills and changing behavioral patterns to ultimately influence a person’s decision making and feelings in a positive way. In clinical studies supporting the device’s approval, more than 40% of patients who used the Reset system alongside traditional therapy abstained from alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and stimulant abuse over a three month period. Just 17.6% of patients with similar addictions who received standard therapy alone were able to abstain.
Technology such as the Internet and mobile phones offers promise for both people suffering from addictions and their treatment providers. Health providers are already adept at the psychotherapy techniques used in addiction treatment, but technology can help support or improve the assessment, prevention, treatment of and recovery from substance abuse disorders by offering entirely new models of care delivery. Almost everyone in the United States has access to Internet services, which can help people who may otherwise stop treatment more readily access these services.
Technology in the form of online communities can help people suffering from substance abuse disorder gain companionship, feel accountable to others during their recovery journey and improve their communication skills. Support could be merely a click away, which is important for people struggling with impulses and urges. In this way, technology can play an important role in avoiding relapse and continued addiction.
It’s important to note that mobile apps and other forms of technology should serve as adjunct treatments to another program rather than serving as a standalone program. Addiction is an all-encompassing disease and treatment must, therefore, be holistic. Technology can be incorporated into modern addiction treatment strategies. Online meetings, digital support groups, and virtual reality have all proven useful as treatment techniques and provide new ways to fight addiction in as many ways as possible.