Is a Way ‘In Reach’ to Guide Opioid Users to Recovery?

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(DGIwire)   Try as some people might to turn a blind eye to the problem, fatal drug overdoses—especially from opioids and heroin—continue to rise. According to a recent release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8,257 people died of heroin-related causes in the U.S. in 2013, a significant increase from the previous year.

All indications are that in 2015, heroin continues to represent a growing problem. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Chief Medical Officer of drug treatment provider Phoenix House, told Forbes Magazine that a recent $12 million increase in funding to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is like trying to put out a raging fire with a squirt gun.

Nor are some tactics adopted by drug makers to address the problem having much benefit. For example, a study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in the Journal of American Medicine found that 25 percent of drug abusers could still get high from OxyContin despite novel abuse-deterrent measures. Though there are formulas to prevent abuse, users will often crush the pills to snort or dissolve in liquid and inject. Long story short: if a user wants to get high, a shift in process will not stop him.

“There are many people who are trying to break their addiction, but it can be very difficult,” says Mark A. Sirgo, president and CEO of BioDelivery Sciences. “The bottom line is that once people become addicted, we need to help them recover. The data out there are tragic, and it’s necessary to start helping people by providing them with important resources to aid in their recovery.”

To that end, Sirgo’s Raleigh, NC-based company has developed an important website and app (initially available for the iPhone here) called InReach™. InReach, which went online in December 2014, offers a comprehensive array of information and resources to support patients and their families. It helps identify personal goals and progress; track moods, triggers and medication; record appointments; and create boards of messages and photos to help keep users positive throughout the recovery process. InReach is not a substitute for a voluntary rehabilitation program.

“When communicating the steps to recovery with my patients who are dealing with opioid dependence, I make it clear that medication is only one part of the process,” says Dr. Matthew A. Torrington, a family medicine physician with a specialty in addiction medicine, based in Culver City, CA. “Comprehensive, individualized, multimodal treatment, along with biological, psychological, social, spiritual and nutritional changes, are needed to give patients the best chance of sustained success. To this end, resources like InReach can offer an effective set of tools to support patients’ progress on their personal road to recovery.”

Whatever the method for dealing with opioid addiction, it’s clear that changes are needed to halt the rapidly growing problem. Funding is one leg of the stool and new treatments are another. And then there’s the user’s own determination. That’s where having this kind of app “in reach” can be so valuable.

*InReach is not intended to substitute professional medical advice or to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool.