App flags environmental triggers to help avoid opioid relapse

Overcoming addiction is a full-time, around-the-clock endeavor. The triggers for relapse could come from anywhere—whether that be running into an old friend, facing unexpected emotional difficulties or ending up in locations tied to drug use.

The app—dubbed Hey,Charlie—alerts individuals with drug dependency issues of environmental triggers. If someone walks past a location where she used to purchase drugs, for example, the app will send a text reminder to stay strong and acknowledge the situation. According to STAT, Emily Lindemer, a scientist at IBM Watson Health Imaging, conceived of the app at the 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology health hackathon.

“People and places can remind you of using drugs and stress you out,” leading people to relapse, said Lindemer. “The app chimes in with a different reminder: recovery. “It helps them keep their sobriety at the front of their mind,” she said.

Apps targeted at those battling addiction take different tacks to help avoid relapse. STAT cites SoberTool, an anonymous forum for discussion, and Sober Grid, a social network for people with chemical decency issues with an Instagram-like newsfeed.

“Social outlets are critically important,” said Wilson Washington, Jr., a senior public health adviser at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “You need family support, you need community support, you need system support.”

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