There is nothing new about apps for addiction recovery. In fact, they are becoming an important adjunct to aftercare routines and 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Addiction recovery apps make sense for several reasons.

  • Triggers are everywhere, and most people have their phones with them all the time.
  • They are accessible to just about everyone.
  • They provide people in addiction recovery a discreet and anonymous tool to help them.
  • Most apps are created by addiction specialists with extensive knowledge about addiction recovery.
  • Many are free or only cost a few dollars.

In September, the FDA approved a prescription-only addiction recovery app called reSET, to be used by people with substance abuse disorders with alcohol, stimulants, cocaine, and marijuana. It is designed specifically for people in outpatient treatment programs and users must have a prescription to unlock and use the software.

Basic Facts About the ReSET App

Each week, users of the reSET app answer questions designed to help them cope with triggers and cravings and to stay informed about how to deal with their addiction recovery. App activities are based on a type of treatment known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and are designed to mimic what patients would experience in a face-to-face setting with a drug abuse counselor.

People in recovery from substance abuse disorders can report cravings as well as what they believe to be triggering them. They can report setbacks as well, and the information is automatically sent to the patient’s clinician, who is provided with an app dashboard.

How the App Is Intended to Work

ReSET is intended to be a two-way app, to be used by people in an outpatient addiction recovery program and their counselors. Ideally, the information the clinician receives through their app dashboard keeps them informed between in-person visits and can help make those in-person visits more effective and efficient.

The app is designed for people with substance abuse disorders who are not taking opioid replacement therapy, whose primary substance abused is not opioids, and who do not abuse alcohol exclusively. It is also made to be used alongside a contingency management system, which is a program that uses incentives and rewards to help people stick with their treatment program.

Addiction recovery


Clinical Trial Results

A multi-site, unblinded clinical trial of nearly 400 patients over a 12-week period was sent to the FDA for review. Patients received standard treatment, or standard treatment as well as the reSET app. Data from the trial showed a statistically significant increase in abstinence for app users, with 40.3 percent of app users adhering to their treatment program versus 17.6 percent of people who had standard treatment without the use of the app.

The reason reSET is not FDA-approved for people with opioid addictions or taking opioid replacement therapy is because the clinical trial did not demonstrate effectiveness for these patients. Pear Therapeutics, maker of reSET, however, is currently developing an app specifically for people with opioid addictions.

Controversy Around Prescription-Only Apps

The primary reason reSET is a prescription-only app is because it is designed to be used by two parties: the person with the substance abuse disorder and their clinician. However, the concept of prescription-only apps rubs some people the wrong way. Some researchers are concerned that prescription-only apps may be used to limit access when the apps are not believed to pose any medical risk to patients. Safety, in fact, is the main purpose of designating a treatment as prescription-only. Pear Therapeutics, however, believes that a prescription-only model for reSET makes sense because substance abuse disorders are serious medical conditions and should be monitored by trained clinicians.

Addiction recovery is a personalized journey that requires commitment and work on the part of the person in recovery, and both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are necessary so that treatment can be tailored to the individual. Prescription-only apps like reSET offer clinicians and people in addiction recovery another valuable tool that may assist greatly with long-term recovery. If you are struggling under the weight of a substance abuse disorder, we encourage you to learn more about admissions. Real help is only one call away.

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