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Doctors prescribing screen time for opioid addiction

Drug overdose deaths have been rising since 2000
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 8:00 PM EDT
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(WBTV) - While we’re in a COVID pandemic, we’re also still dealing with an opioid epidemic.

Drug overdose deaths have been rising since 2000.

Last year, there was a big spike, the highest ever.

That means the need for treatment is higher than ever too.

So how do we make that easier for people to access? Washington Bureau Reporter Kyle Midura explains doctors are now prescribing screen time for those looking to break free from opiates.

There’s seemingly an app for everything these days including hacking the mental elements of drug addiction.

“We can’t be available to our patients 24-7, the app is,” said Dr. Bruce Goldman, the Senior Director of Behavioral Health at Zucker Hillside Hospital on Long Island.

reSET-O – which offers lessons for coping with cravings, self-tracking of triggers and gift card rewards for progress and sobriety -- is paired with medication.

“They began prescribing reSET-O as part of a pandemic pilot program,” Dr. Goldman said. “Now the app is a standard care option, and very pleased to say it’s worked remarkably well.

Goldman says its greatest impact is keeping opiate use disorder patients engaged along their path to recovery and in treatment.

“Greatest downside is they won’t use it,” Goldman said.

reSET-O is the only program of its sort to earn FDA approval for treating opiate addiction.

A handful of products offer similar promises.

“These digital treatments can provide care that is sometimes as good as or better than clinician delivered therapy,” said Dr. Lisa Marsch, from Dartmouth College.

But researchers like Marsch say most of the 200 wellness and therapy programs hitting digital marketplaces every day can’t make similar claims about effectiveness.

She says regulators and benefits managers can help clinicians distinguish between bogus and beneficial apps.

“So you’re actually getting a clinical-grade intervention via software,” Dr. Marsch said.

Marsch says retaining patients double their chances of success. Most apps focus on providing lessons or guidance and don’t need a constant internet connection.

Newer efforts could analyze patient’s social media and health data to predict when a patient is at risk of relapse and intervene.

“There’s a really strong proof of concept in that space right now,” Dr. Marsch said.

Advances in digital options promise even better results, but practitioners and researchers say no tool can force an unwilling patient to get clean.

App store reviews show users reporting mixed impressions of reset-O.

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