Drug addiction is similar to many other chronic diseases in that it can be treated, but relapse does happen. This doesn’t mean the treatment has failed, any more than an asthma attack in a patient treated for asthma means their treatment did not work — it simply means the treatment plan needs to be adjusted.
Traditional treatments plans include either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation and therapy, but new tools are emerging to help people who suffer from drug addiction to continue with their treatment and even prevent relapse. Can a smartphone app help prevent relapse?
Recovery Requires Support
Drug addiction doesn’t always start with hard drugs. In many cases, it starts simply with the abuse of prescription medications. Of the 75 million Americans who experience pain that requires medication every year, 8.5 million of them develop substance abuse problems due to their pain medication. The number of painkiller prescriptions has nearly tripled to 219 million over the last 20 years, and the number of substance abuse cases has risen accordingly.
The key to recovering from an addiction is constant and unyielding support from others, because the trigger that causes a relapse can sneak up on people. Programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are designed to provide some of that support, by connecting individuals with a sponsor and bringing together like-minded individuals who are going through a similar recovery journey.
The problem with programs like these is that once a member leaves the meeting, often their only contact between sessions is their sponsor. The sponsor is a great source of support, but they are only one person, and a wider support base is necessary to facilitate recovery and prevent relapse.
Introducing Triggr Health
Triggr Health is an app designed to specifically help individuals through their recovery journey. First, it tracks the days the user has been sober — providing an active updated count that allows each user to set personal goals.
It also connects users with recovery coaches, who can guide individual users through their toughest moments. Triggr encourages users to check in with the app every single day, and if more than a day has gone by between check-ins, the coaches will reach out.
Triggr is unique in the growing world of health-related apps in that it doesn’t just encourage good behavior by creating accountability — it uses machine-learning algorithms to help predict behavior patterns. If a behavioral trend is detected that indicates a relapse could happen in the future, Triggr’s coaches can reach out to the individual or the patient’s external care team to alert them.
This app is the first in what could be a line of applications designed to encourage recovery by preventing relapse. The predictive algorithms help the app reach out when a user might need support, before they even realize they need it. The CEO of Triggr Health has designed the app to reproduce motherly intuition — that gut feeling that mothers get when they realize something is wrong with their children.
Smartphones are a great way to stay connected with sponsors and support, but until now, they couldn’t tell you when you needed help the most.
Currently, more than two-thirds of adults in the United States own a smartphone. Medical apps that provide more than basic answers are still in their infancy, but apps like Triggr Health could potentially alter the way substance abuse recovery is handled. It will never be a replacement for traditional care, but when paired with therapy or inpatient/outpatient treatment, apps like Triggr could make it easier to recover from drug addiction.