New technology aims to reduce addiction stigma and motivate those who struggle to stay sober.
A startup company is hoping to treat the opioid epidemic by taking options to the next level – a smartphone app. David Reeser and his partner Stan Matrin are working on the development of opiAID, a cloud-based platform that allows for technology assisted therapy for opioid use disorder. It is the first platform to be billed as a viable IT alternative.
The app will come with a purple watch similar to a Fitbit and its site markets the product as a “wearable device…serve[ing] as a movement to show others that addiction is a disease, just like heart disease or breast cancer. No one is ashamed to admit they have cancer, and the same will soon be true for addiction. Wearing a purple watch will become a symbol to the community at large that we love each other, and that we are all neighbors. No more stigma, because addiction has no face or socio-economic status.”
“It’s an unbelievable tragedy that could have been avoided,” said opiAID co-founder Reeser of the opioid epidemic. “The idea of artificial intelligence, basically we’re just taking information and we’re allowing a computer to compress that information instead of having human beings work through it. It takes out a lot of the time that it would take to get to the head of this problem and time is the one thing we don’t have. The more time that goes by that we’re not utilizing every tool that we need the more people die…There are local clinics in the city of Wilmington that we currently work with. I use their data de-identified so there’s no risk to the individual whatsoever. Then I contextualize that data for key insight so, actually, I’m doing data science inside of clinics, improving care by identifying things that people can’t see.”
He added, “I know for a fact that we’ve saved one person’s life as a result of key insight that we saw remotely…a machine algorithm identified somebody was having a cardiac event,” Reeser said.
The Fitbit-like watch also tracks the recovery process so addicts stay motivated to maintain sobriety. Reeser added, “Based on what we see in the data, their phone will vibrate and they’ll look at it and they’ll see a picture of their reason for recovery – their loved ones, their dog, you know something that is important to them. That’s real time – hit just when they were about to make that decision, but they could have done something they wouldn’t have come back from. That’s really what it’s about.”
opiAID’s assisted therapy is the next level of treatment, especially accessible during the COVID-19 crisis. “This is going to work in conjunction with their treatment program,” Reeser said. “I honestly think that’s the essence of how people achieve confident recovery. It’s not the medication assisted therapy alone, it’s not NA, it’s a community that rallies around them.”
As soon as the technology is complete, Reeser plans to roll out opiAID first in the Carolinas, then expand along the East Coast of the United States.
“This still relies on additional funding and additional data but we’re already seeing really promising things and we’re inching closer,” Reeser said.