Text messaging can help fight Opioid addiction, Study says

Text messaging Opioid use disorder

According to a study released on April 17th by NEJM Catalyst, an Text messaging can help Opioid addiction by reducing the recurrence rate, thus contributing to the epidemic of anti-opioids.

The app will also have an emergency “panic button” that users can activate for instant help if they feel they’re at immediate risk for relapse.

Once pressed, a healthcare worker on standby would call the patient to talk and see if an appointment with a doctor is needed.

“There is an urgent need to address the opioid crisis in powerful new ways,” the study’s senior author Avik Som said in a release. “With the opioid epidemic, time is of the essence because of how quickly it’s grown and the lives that are lost.”

The text service sends messages and phone calls to patients struggling with opioid addiction. The messages ask patients how they are feeling, if they’re struggling with a potential relapse and includes a panic button for immediate help.

If a patient were to report struggling with a potential relapse, the platform sends follow-up questions to classify their risk of relapse and notify healthcare providers to intervene.

The text messages act as a support tool to cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatments in reducing the opioid epidemic.

“This is not meant to replace important programs or face-to-face contact between patients and providers,” Som said. “Rather, it is an additional tool that is affordable and immediate.

It doesn’t require costly, time-consuming measures such as opening substance-abuse centers, and training and hiring new staff.”

A test group of 21 patients in the study started using the texting service in 2016 as part of a substance abuse treatment program.

Through their text correspondences over three months, the researchers saw that half of the patients using the app reported no drug use at all; and although nine admitted to using again within the first three days of the study, only two said that they were still taking drugs after three months.

After three months of using the text service, half the patients reported no substance use. The patients who did report use decreased to 10 percent.

The researchers were unable to attribute this trend solely to the app but said the data are encouraging.

Additionally, the text service cut per-patient costs for caregiver services specific to addiction-related care by 19 percent, from $926 annually to $753.

“Opioid users face strong urges to relapse because of the addictive power of the drug,” Som said. “As a result, healthcare workers struggle to keep patients engaged.

“Texting is convenient, immediate and nonjudgmental. It has become an integral part of how we communicate in society. Patients reported feeling more connected to healthcare providers.”

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