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article imageTechnology required to combat the opioid crisis in U.S.

By Karen Graham     Aug 9, 2017 in Technology
President Trump has refused to declare the opioid epidemic across America a national emergency, leaving the public to find a solution to the problem. And with the innovative technologies we have at our disposal today, there may be a solution.
Opioid addiction in the U.S. is skyrocketing, with nearly 100 people dying every day from drug overdoses, more than those who die from guns and car accidents. Based on the latest figures, over 20.5 million Americans aged 12 or older have a substance abuse disorder, a nice way of saying they are addicted to drugs.
The crux of the problem in combating the opioid crisis is in improving on what we have available today. Health officials have many tools at their disposal, including naloxone, to counter a drug reaction, individual and group therapy, hospitalization, and other types of community support organizations.
But these traditional therapies don't seem to be successful in getting people addicted to heroin or opioids like Oxycontin or fentanyl off the drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have even gone so far as to issue guidelines to doctors, asking them to cut back on the number of prescriptions for powerful painkillers.
With the CDC calling for implementing prevention programs as well as enhanced access to treatment and harm-reduction services, law enforcement has been focusing on reducing the opioid supply lines. Technology has not been left out of the opioid crisis picture. In fact, a lot has been done to aid in the fight.
Technology companies add their expertise to the battle
Most people don't realize the impact opioid abuse has on a company's bottom line. Opioid abuse cost employers nationally $16.3 billion in 2013 due to reduced productivity and increased disability. Another $14 billion is absorbed by private health insurers, according to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
Technology is teaming up with insurance companies, businesses, social media sites and the health care sector to create tools that can better track opioid abusers, including how many times naloxone is used, where they are getting their prescriptions and the pharmacies they use. Technology is also helping in treating addiction.
One of the most promising uses of technology in helping people to recover from their opioid addiction is in the field of virtual reality (VR). VR has been around since the 1990s, and while being archaic, has now taken on a new life in the form of assisting patients in the difficulties in overcoming addiction.
Virtual Reality therapy
Today's VR therapy involves full-immersion sessions with the individual wearing a Haptic suit, and in combination with state of the art graphics, the patient enters an alternate world that is incredibly believable. Addicts are put through a series of different scenarios and settings.
An illustration of a haptic suit
An illustration of a haptic suit
The University of Huston has developed several programs that create scenarios that help to paint a much more in-depth understanding of how individual drug addicts’ brains work in accordance to their drug of choice.
In one scenario, the addict actually appears to enter a "heroin cave." Those addicted are introduced to settings where they would typically ingest a drug like heroin usually by injecting or snorting in groups. This type of therapy gives the therapist a better understanding of what causes someone to crave a certain drug as well as specific triggers relating to relapse.
NetDirector partners with Addiction Care 101
Another key battle in the opioid crisis is getting recovering addicts partnered with the right medical treatment. NetDirector is a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform and has been very successful in providing its integration services to the health care community. Addiction Care 101 offers a platform for opioid users to anonymously go through treatment and recovery without notification of family members or employers.
Located in Wilmington, North Carolina, Addiction Care 101 provides medication, therapy, and support, as well as physician's appointments and group therapy, anonymously, from the privacy of a recovering addict's home. Tampa, Florida-based NetDirector is working with Addiction Care 101, using technology that includes telemedicine and e-prescribing. This also gives the company's access to the Controlled Substance Database using their automated process, giving A101 the critical assurance that members are not seeking drugs beyond their treatment program.
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