Is Technology the Answer for Easing Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Table of Contents
Mobile Health Apps
In recent years, the only form of communication patients had with their doctors was in-person medical appointments. While in-person communication is important with medical professionals, short appointments did not provide enough time or resources to track the time gone between visits. However, for patients using opioids as a prescription or withdrawing from them, the time in between appointments can be the most significant.
Recent innovations in technology and addiction have introduced several viable solutions for this problem, including mobile health apps.
Mobile health apps can work manually or automatically to collect health data about information such as daily medication, activity levels, nutrition, and other important aspects of health and wellbeing. This monitoring aids in information-tracking, allowing important data to be easily shared with health professionals or organized for personal use.
For those living with opioid withdrawal symptoms, a mobile health app can be one of the best forms of technology in addiction and information tracking due not only to its organization system but also to the additional benefits and resources it offers.
The Benefits of Health Apps
One of the most utilized forms of addiction treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms is medication-assisted treatment and pharmacology.3 This treatment involves prescribing non-opiate medication to manage the side effects and alleviate the discomfort associated with withdrawal.
While this treatment is a viable form of recovery on its own, it can lead to an excess amount of medication to monitor. For those with a substance use disorder or mental illness, it can be difficult alone.
Technology in addiction, specifically mobile health apps, allows patients to customize their medication routine in-app and record their daily medications as needed. This monitoring can prevent missed or double doses, aiding in the effectiveness of treatment.
Mobile health apps also provide an educational aspect. Not only are patients able to explore and learn more about their health, but often, these apps provide a variety of resources regarding health. They can aid in increasing one’s independence while still adhering to the instructions of a medical professional.
In many cases, those who are currently seeking addiction treatment for opioid withdrawal were once prescribed opioids to manage the symptoms of an illness. However, while the method of treatment changed, the illness still likely exists. As a result, it is critical to monitor the conversion from medication that is previously based on opioids to a non-opiate regime.
Mobile health apps can help provide information and pharmaceutical tracking to effectively converse between medications and provide opioid monitoring.
Studies have shown that peer support during the management of withdrawal symptoms can be one of the most beneficial forms of support.2 Patients can thrive in a like-minded community that encourages recovery while providing anecdotes of relatable experiences.
Mobile health apps provide 24/7 access to peer support groups, an aspect not possible with in-person groups. In this way, technology in addition acts as an assistant in traditional treatment rather than an alternative.
Mobile health apps can allow you to immediately connect with a healthcare provider through tele-appointments. They provide prompt responses and assistance during difficult times, which better promotes recovery.
One of the biggest advantages of implementing technology during withdrawal is the additional support it provides to aid in symptom management.
The most noticeable aspect of utilizing technology, specifically mobile health apps, is the efficiency of patient opioid monitoring. Mobile health apps provide an effective form of communication between patients and medical health professionals not only in the relay of information but also in data collected in between regular appointments.
Mobile health apps can also utilize other forms of technology to increase their efficacy, and the information from these sources can be used to promote further technological advances.
Other Types of Mobile Health Technologies
Wearable biosensors help compile data and information that is useful in machine learning, which only further aids in the process of optimizing technology to detect and ease opioid use disorder and withdrawal.3
Wearable sensors are already common in day-to-day life in the form of fitness watches, rings, and other accessories that sense, interpret, and collect information about the health and wellbeing of the wearer. This information can include factors from heart rate to oxygen saturation and can be beneficial in increasing opioid monitoring and easing withdrawal.
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include several detectable factors, such as:4
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Inability to sleep
By utilizing wearable technology, health care providers can better understand vital signs around the clock, aiding in the management of opioid withdrawal.
For the loved ones of those managing withdrawal symptoms, access to GPS information can be extremely beneficial, especially for those recovering from substance abuse disorder. This tracking can help prevent relapse.
Ecological Momentary Assessment
Unless the patient is admitted to an inpatient program, ecological momentary assessment has not been possible in the past. Now, however, technology in addiction has allowed for vitals and significant information to be collected continuously.
One of the greatest advances in technology has been machine learning, in which an algorithm is introduced data and allowed to interpret it. In doing so, the algorithm is allowed to further grow and advance itself, improving the outcome of results with each successful interpretation.
Mobile health apps and wearable sensors, GPS information, and other forms of technology can all provide information regarding opioid withdrawal and the symptoms a patient experiences to an algorithm, which can further analyze and interpret the data. This aspect allows the algorithm to create new advancements and innovations in the addiction treatments available by providing a wider range of information.
Biomedical devices dedicated to opioid withdrawal are an innovation regarding technology in addiction but a beneficial one, nonetheless. Researchers have created several different blueprints for technology that will be able to reduce the severity of acute withdrawal signs and symptoms. These designs will work with the patient’s body and natural chemicals to read, understand, and respond to changes to aid in more efficient recovery.