App Contest Provides Guide to Medication-Assisted Treatment

In her post What the Opioid Epidemic Means in Virginia, Handshake Media’s Executive Director Laurel Sindewald writes, “Latest science informs us that the best approach to treating opioid substance use disorders is medication-assisted therapy. Suboxone and methadone keep people stable enough in recovery to live more normal lives. People with substance use disorders are more than twice as likely to stay in treatment and not relapse if they are receiving medication than if they are not.”Smartphone apps help with recoveryAs we do research to prepare to develop an updated release of our free addictions recovery smartphone app, New2Recovery, I was fascinated to read the clear definitions and terms used in this opioid addictions recovery mobile app development contest from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. Those who suffer from a substance use disorder need help to change their behavior and learn new strategies to maintain health. They can get this help with treatment – with the care of doctors and substance use disorders treatment providers. Treatment can help people stop using substances. It helps them get through withdrawal and cope with cravings. Treatment also helps address other harmful behaviors that are not conducive to recovery.

Just as important, treatment helps people address life issues they might have that can trigger relapse, such as feelings of low self-worth, a bad situation at work or home, a co-occurring mental disorder, or spending time with people who use drugs. In short, treatment helps people move into healthy lifestyles – into a new way of living which is referred to as recovery.

Treatment may include medication. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is treatment that includes the use of medication along with counseling and other types of support. Treatment that includes medication-assisted treatment is an important option for opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment can reduce problems of withdrawal and craving. Research also shows maintenance treatment typically leads to reduction or cessation of illicit opioid use and its adverse consequences, including cellulitis, hepatitis, and HIV infection from use of nonsterile injection equipment, as well as criminal behavior associated with obtaining drugs. These changes can give the person the chance to focus on the lifestyle changes that lead back to healthy living. People in outpatient MAT could benefit from a mobile app for smartphones that provides features and information that supports their maintenance in recovery.

INSIGHTS TO BE ADDRESSED IN THE APP

Insight 1. Patients receiving Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) need information about possible side effects and drug interactions in a format that is easy to understand and access.

Required Features:

The app must provide information on common side effects that patients receiving Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Naltrexone treatment experience, how to deal with side effects, and when they are expected to subside.

The app must include information on drug interactions with Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naltrexone.

The app must provide information on the potential adverse effects of combining Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Naltrexone with Benzodiazepines , Benzodiazepine Analogs or Barbiturates. These side effects include, but are not limited to, decrease in breathing ability and blood pressure as well as death.

Insight 2. Patients receiving MAT need education and psychoeducational materials for opioid recovery support, e.g., time management, parenting skills, effects of drug use on family, etc.

Required Features:

The app must provide educational tools and materials including broad and general resources, especially resources that encourage users to discuss content with a recovery coach or clinician, including the resources in the Asset File.

Insight 3. Individuals in MAT need support to reduce risk for relapse, e.g., increase participation in healthy activities, and avoid people, places and things that might trigger drug use.

Required Features:

Meeting Location Finder: The app must provide opportunities for users to find mutual aid meetings and peer support groups.

Insight 4. Individuals in MAT need support in relapse prevention such as warning signs, trigger alerts, and motivations for recovery.

Insight 5. Individuals in MAT maintenance are often juggling their work, personal, and treatment schedules.

– Excerpted from SAMHSA’s Opioid Recovery App Challenge, submission deadline 5/28/16

I share this because the writers of the app contest have inadvertently created a lovely, concise, simply-worded description of what addiction is, what medication-assisted therapy is, what challenges people need help with, and straightforward guidelines for recovery.

Anne Giles is President of Handshake Media, Incorporated, publishers of the free addictions recovery smartphone app, New2Recovery.

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