By David Heitz
We use technology and Smartphone apps, specifically, to dial up our health in all kinds of ways these days.
“The health apps, for example, help those with diabetes track and record every blood sugar reading and insulin injection,” reports Stat. “One invites users to photograph their moles, and offers analysis on whether they are changing in a way that signals skin cancer.” (1)
So, it only makes sense that now we have an app to help people addicted to drugs and alcohol disconnect from urges to use.
This latest app goes beyond other innovative sobriety apps to emerge in recent years, including Sober Grid and WeConnect. More on those a bit later.
The new app is the first actually approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be marketed for the treatment of substance use disorder.
Substance use disorder is the official DSM IV code that behavioral health professionals use to officially record addiction. Its definition, simply, is that a person’s drug or alcohol use has gotten to the point that it is interfering with the activities of daily living, such as going to work.
DSM IV stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition.
In short, this app has received a federal seal of approval in the addiction space that has never before been seen.
Clinical study proves reSET’s mettle
The reSET is made by Pear Therapeutics. It actually is prescribed to patients by doctors.
reSET works as a supplement to cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction (talk therapy).
In a study of more than 500 patients at about a dozen rehabilitation centers across the country, reSET proved highly effective at keeping people sober.
The only down side? It’s not approved for treatment of substance use disorder from opioids, which is a public health crisis in America.
“In patients who were dependent on stimulants, marijuana, cocaine, or alcohol (395), 58.1 percent of patients receiving reSET were abstinent in study weeks 9-12, while 29.8 percent of patients receiving face-to-face therapy alone were abstinent during the same time frame,” Pear reports on its website. (2)
Pear has plenty more products in the works, including a reSET for opioid use disorder.
“Pear’s product development pipeline includes reSET®-OTM for opioid use disorder (OUD) and additional prescription digital therapeutics in schizophrenia (ThriveTM), combat posttraumatic stress disorder (reCALLTM), general anxiety disorder (reVIVETM), pain, major depressive disorder, and insomnia, for which Pear intends to obtain FDA clearance,” the company reported in a news release last month.
The release described how Pear “has been selected as one of nine companies to participate in the FDA’s Digital Health Software Pre-Cert Pilot Program. The goal of the pilot program is to leverage the best processes and principles from all nine participants to inform the development of a new digital health regulatory framework.” (3)
How reSET works
ReSET is a remarkable way for a patient and a clinician to interact much more frequently even though they are not face to face.
For a person exiting inpatient treatment, being on their own can be scary. An app like this allows a clinician to “tag along” and keep tabs on the person in recovery.
The app asks the patient how they are feeling each day. Are they hungry? Angry? It also helps them manage any illnesses they may have that complicate the addiction or go along with it, such as HIV or Hepatitis C. The app helps keep the patient linked to physical health care as well as mental health care and sobriety.
The clinician who prescribes the app keeps tabs on a desktop dashboard. They are able to identify successes and challenges, and address challenges before they become problems. The clinician actually is able to dispense cognitive behavioral therapy through the app.
Hook-up app inspires Sober Grid
There are many other non-FDA approved sobriety apps that offer social support, which can be just as important as help from a clinician.
Sober Grid was founded by Beau Mann. Beau tumbled from sobriety after breaking up with a mate and ending up at Sundance Film Festival alone.
“I wanted to connect with other sober guys or girls, maybe see a screening, have a cup of coffee,” Mann told the website HIV Equal. “But all the parties, they involved drinking. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be with the sober population.”
Because he was familiar with various meeting apps, he wondered why a similar app could not be made for sober people looking for support. An app that used GPS to find other nearby sober people and 12-step meetings in a pinch.
Thus, Sober Grid was born.
“Not all users are focused on a 12-step program, though the majority are,” Mann said. “It ranges from people in recovery, to people who just want to be in a sober atmosphere with like-minded people.” (4)
WeConnect has features similar to reSET
Another popular app is WeConnect, Last year, the app won TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF and Seattle Meet Up events in 2016.
“There’s three components to recovery,” WeConnect co-founder Daniel Tudor told TechCrunch as she demonstrated the device. “One is communication. So, adding your connections; the second is clarity — so that’s whatever activity you consider part of your recovery, that keeps you centered and a good connection in relation with yourself.
“The third part of the recovery, which is probably the most crucial, initially especially, is what your in-person support routine is — so that’d include any of these 12-step or CBT cognitive behavioral therapy sessions,” Tudor said. (5)
Sobriety Counter, I Am Sober, Coach.me
Sobriety Counter for Android, NOMO, I Am Sober and Coach.me all are sobriety apps both popular and free.
Medical News Today describes Sobriety Counter this way:
“Sobriety Counter is a fun app full of vibrant colors and bold icons that gamify your stop drinking journey. The bright dashboard shows you how much money you have saved by not drinking. You can also set up a treat as a goal with a personal image, and the app will show you the duration until you reach your target.
Scientific statistics show aspects of your health improvement, such as blood circulation, cell regeneration, gray matter, and mental health, as well as your risk of heart disease and cancer decrease.”
NOMO, meanwhile, which is available for iPhone as well as Android, “accurately breaks down the time you are sober to the minute, which means that it can show you your sobriety time in terms of years, months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes,” Medical News Today explains.
“Your sobriety clock can also be shared with your accountability partner, so they can check in on you and see how long you have been clean.”
As for reSET, top FDA official Carlos Pena says, “This is an example of how innovative digital technologies can help provide patients access to additional tools during their treatment.
Pena is director of the Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
“More therapy tools mean a greater potential to help improve outcomes, including abstinence, for patients with substance use disorder.” (6)
- Associated Press. (2016, Dec. 5). Many smartphone health apps don’t flag danger, says review. Stat. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2017, from https://www.statnews.com/2016/12/05/smartphone-health-apps/
- Pear Therapeutics. ReSET for Substance Use Disorder. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2017, from
- Heitz, D. (2015, July 15). Gay, Sober and Looking to Connect? There’s an App for That. HIV Equal. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2015, from http://www.hivequal.org/hiv-equal-online/gay-sober-and-looking-to-connect-there-s-an-app-for-that
- Nichols, H. (2017, Aug. 10). Best apps to stop drinking alcohol. Medical News Today. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2017, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318913.php
- Lomas, N. (2016, Sept. 13.). WeConnect is an app to support addiction recovery. TechCrunch. retrieved Oct. 11, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/13/weconnect-is-an-app-to-v support-addiction-recovery/
- FDA News Release. (2017, Sept. 14). FDA permits marketing of mobile medical application for substance use disorder. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm576087.htm