19 September 2017

Substance abuse? There's an app for that

Apps are being used for the treatment of more and more conditions – and substance abuse is the latest on the list.

"There's an app for that." This saying is starting to ring true in the medical field as well.

We already have apps to diagnose a cough, to control ADHD and to treat insomnia

It seems that substance abuse can now be added to that list. 

Not for opioid dependence

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved its first mobile app to help treat substance abuse, the agency said in a news release.

The Reset application is designed to help treat abuse of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and stimulant medications. But the app is not intended for opioid dependence, the FDA said.

Citing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the FDA said criteria for Substance Use Disorders (SUD) are met when chronic use of these substances causes "significant impairment, such as health problems, disability and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home".

Access to additional tools

The newly-approved app delivers behavioural therapy that's designed to "increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase [participation] in outpatient therapy programmes," the FDA said.

"This is an example of how innovative digital technologies can help provide patients access to additional tools during their treatment," said Carlos Peña, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices.

The agency said it reviewed a 12-week clinical study involving nearly 400 people. Among those who used the app, 40.3% abstained from further alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or stimulant use, compared with 17.6% among those who did not use the app.

Approval of the app was given to Pear Therapeutics, based in Boston and San Francisco.

Warning signs

Substance abuse can be life-threatening and it's important to get help. Parents should also pay attention to the following warning signs:

  • Behavioural problems and poor grades at school
  • Emotional distancing, isolation, depression or fatigue
  • Change in friendships or extreme influence by peers
  • Hostility, irritability or change in level of cooperation around the house
  • Lying or increased evasiveness about after school or weekend whereabouts
  • Decrease in interest in personal appearance
  • Physical changes such as bloodshot eyes, runny nose, frequent sore throats, rapid weight loss
  • Changes in mood, eating or sleeping patterns
  • Dizziness and memory problems
  • Physical evidence of drug paraphernalia

Image credit: iStock


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