New App Could Help Reduce Opioid Abuse

By McCarton Ackerman 06/22/15

Patients will soon be able to track their pain and medication use, as well as share that information with their doctor.

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Suffering from chronic pain and worried about abusing opioid painkillers? A new soon-to-be-released app can help manage both.

The pain specialists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Belmont, Mass., are developing a smartphone app that could help reduce opioid use among chronic pain sufferers. It’s currently being tested on both cancer and non-cancer patients, but will soon be available for everyone on iPhone and Android phones.

Robert Jamison, PhD, chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the app will track pain data among patients and save it to their records. It will also “track patients’ use of medications, side effects, [and] improvement in pain in activity,” allowing doctors to better assess any potential risks for opioid abuse.

The app will also provide information for these patients about how to relax and reduce overall stress. Users will also receive regular messages of encouragement as their opioid use is reduced or regulated, while offering suggestions if it appears they are going through a difficult patch in their chronic pain.

“Patients will get a sense that someone is really watching and supporting them. We want to find out how much that will make a difference,” said Dr. Jamison. “We also want to see if this app will help keep people out of the ER and reduce their pain.”

Early signs from the 60 patients in the study appear encouraging. Each participant used the app for three months and was then given the opportunity to use it for another three months. So far, all of the patients have opted to continue using it.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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