In the smartphone-dependent world, we find ourselves; there is an app for just about everything. While it’s fair to say that most applications have little real-life value, some programmers are designing apps that help people who are struggling with mental illness. In fact, there are significant swaths of people in recovery from mental health disorders, including addiction, which use smartphone apps to connect with other individuals for support. Given that a statistically significant percentage of Americans live in rural parts of the country having the ability to communicate with a broader community of people in recovery is invaluable, possibly preventing a relapse.
There are several applications that men and women turn to for guidance and support; Talkspace for instance, connects users with licensed therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ginger.io offers emotional support coaching, therapy, and psychiatry for individuals living with mental illness; the app connects such people with therapists 24/7.
One aspect that makes Ginger standout is that it utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest treatments, The Daily Beast reports. It turns out that AI is likely going to be the future of mental health support applications; the tech can go further than merely offering sound advice, AI can predict a relapse before it happens. The implications of AI in the field of recovery, where the stakes are often life and death, is enormous.
Working a program of addiction recovery requires steadfast dedication; the potential for slipping up and returning to active use is high, especially early in the journey. Community, and being a part of one, actually serves to safeguard one’s recovery. Those who stick close to their support network are more likely to make progress. However, there are often scenarios when people in recovery relapse and it comes as a surprise to the group. An individual appears to be doing the work, attending meetings, and so-on-and-so-forth. Then one day, a meeting commences, and such-and-such is not in the room.
Addiction is a severe form of mental illness; those living with mental health disorders like an addiction sometimes refer to it as being cunning, baffling, and powerful. While an individual is taking steps to maintain sobriety, the disease is in the next room devising a plan to get back into the spotlight. Although, there are often signs, cues that are somewhat ubiquitous regarding the nature of relapse. Those who’ve been sober for a while can often spot someone on the edge of relapse; meanwhile, the person about to slip up hasn’t an idea of what the future holds. In some cases, an “old timer” might approach a recovery novice and suggest some changes to avert a problem; but, it is impossible to prevent every such scenario.
One support app that is for people in addiction recovery is Sober Grid, the company’s website calls it, “a free peer support network right in your pocket to aid you in your recovery.” Sober Grid is similar to Facebook, and it connects people in all stages of recovery. The application came about in 2015 and is now part of more than 120,000 people’s lives. As with any app, there is a multitude of user data; developers could determine if a user had had an incident, i.e., relapse. Which led to a significant question, could those on the brink of decline be identified, and if so, could the app help prevent such an occurrence? According to Dr. Brenda Curtis at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, absolutely; relapses could be predicted using AI and potentially thwarted.
“The words people use reflect who they are (e.g., their personality) and how they feel (e.g., happy, depressed, stressed, relaxed). People using Sober Grid post messages and indicate the number of days they have been sober. We then build statistical models to predict sobriety or relapse from the frequencies with which words are used,” offered Lyle Unger, a professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-investigator on the project.
When the algorithm spots signs of relapse on the horizon, Chris Pesce, COO of Sober Grid, says providing extra support to the user could spare them of such an event, according to the article. He says the app can digitally deliver the tools that addiction therapists know help people on the verge of returning to active substance use. If users opt-in to the program, Sober Grid would instantly connect them with coaches; time is not a luxury when it comes to preventing a relapse.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
If you are struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and co-occurring mental illness, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.
Towards the end of 2017, The New York Times published an article which reveals some alarming opioid statistics. While most people understand that painkillers and heroin affect people from several walks of life and practically every age group, it’s likely that a significant number of individuals are unaware that opioids are also affecting young adults in college. Just because people can get into prestigious schools, doesn’t mean that they are going to make wise decisions. Prescription opioid misuse falls under such a category.
In fact, between 2001 to 2014, data indicates a six-fold increase in opioid use disorder among people under age 25. In roughly the same timeframe, opioid overdose deaths pretty much doubled for the age group. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey of college students reveals that 7% misused opioids and the number of Blue Cross Blue Shield opioid-related claims has nearly increased twofold in almost a decade.
The author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education (2015), Ryan Craig wrote an op-ed recently appearing in Forbes which displays some interesting observations about opioid use disorder and college students. After speaking with experts, like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis and others working in the field of addiction, he lays out a pretty concerning picture of prescription drugs use at universities across the country.
Schools Must Confront Opioids
Craig points out that while most colleges have naloxone on campus for use in the event of an overdose, he says that schools are falling short in addressing the underlying issues. He presents “four fundamental elements of college campuses make them suboptimal environments for those struggling with opioids:”
- An anything-goes approach to alcohol and drugs;
- high pressure;
- lack of structure;
- they’re in this environment for at least four years.
Despite the fact that a number of 4-year schools offer students the option of living in sober dorms and some even provide counseling services, Craig believes that such programs don’t go far enough. The author says college programs for people in recovery don’t treat addiction and students spend the majority of their time outside the specialty dorms; he has concluded that if universities are serious about assisting people living with addiction, they must expand their sober programs to include:
- Medical treatment under medical supervision.
- Separation from other students and much more structure – tapering off as students demonstrate success.
- Offer off-ramps leading to good jobs, so students don’t need to spend four years in order to get a win. Most parents of young adults struggling with opioids would trade anything for a clean, employed child; a degree is the least of their concerns. Then provide on-ramps back to degree programs for students who are prepared for the next challenge.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you are a college student misusing prescription opioids or heroin, Synergy Group Services can assist you in finding recovery. Please contact Synergy today to discuss making recovery a part of your life. We understand that education is of vital importance to you and your family, treatment will provide you with the skills for completing higher education unhindered by drugs and alcohol.
Hurricanes Irma and Jose are behind us and Maria appears to be bypassing the state of Florida. With the exception of the Keys, the state was not nearly as devastated as many feared. Perhaps we can all take a moment to be thankful for that, it could have been so much worse. And we should pray for all those affected on the islands to the south. For those of you working a program of recovery, hopefully you were able to weather the storm — recovery intact?
Even though the damage was far less the expected, millions of Floridians were required to evacuate. The stress of which was palpable. As you well know, stress in recovery is to be avoided whenever possible. Hurricanes don’t usually afford such a luxury. A number of people on the journey of recovery had to ensure that everything was in order, a plan. Those of you who had one likely made it through to the other side without a drink or drug.
Unfortunately, reality dictates that not everyone did. Especially those who were in the early stages of recovery. Who were maybe short on ways to cope with the stress of a natural disaster, or the potential of it. If you relapsed recently, it is vital that you recommit yourself to the program. Please do not guilt and shame yourself further away.
Coming Back from Relapse
Almost two weeks have passed since Irma struck the Sunshine State. If you relapsed around that time, it is possible that you are still using. Ideally, you will dust yourself off and get to a meeting ASAP. Some of you probably have already. For those of you who haven’t, it is vital that you do so immediately, the longer this goes on the worse it will get. Not to mention the risk of physical dependence setting in, again. Thus, dictating the need for detox.
The aforementioned eventuality can happen quickly, especially with drugs like opioids. If you have detoxed at any point, you know it is not a delightful experience. If you feel like you are not in too deep, the fellowship is waiting for you to return. You may be thinking that your recovery peers will not welcome you back without judgment. They will. You might think that the program doesn’t work. After all you relapsed. It does work, though.
At the end of the day relapse is a part of many people’s story of recovery. Remember, recovery is about progress, not perfection. You learn from where you veered from the path and do what you can to avoid a repeat of history. Your sponsor and recovery peers will help you with this. Please do not let false pride stand in the way of returning to recovery.
Treatment Might Be Needed
Those of you who have been hitting the bottle or drugs hard for a couple weeks might need more than just returning to meetings. Treatment may be the best course of action, helping you avoid relapse again early on. At Synergy Group Services, we can help get you back on the path of recovery. Helping you determine what needs to change this time around to increase your chances of achieving long-term recovery. It’s possible.