Saving lives through technology: New app rewards addicts with cash in return for staying clean

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New app helps addicts get clean (WINK News)

Can paying recovering addicts to stay clean really work?

A new app is handing out cash and the developers say it doesn’t just work, it’s saving lives.

Opioid overdoses kill more than 130 people every day in the U.S. Now, a Boston tech company is trying a new approach to bringing that number down.

When Joy Thompson shares how long she’s been in recovery and off the painkillers that derailed her life, she can’t help but smile.

She credits much of her recent success to an app on her phone that holds her accountable.

“I feel amazing, everything is just so good,” she said.

Thompson says she got hooked on painkillers after surgery. Her addiction led her to crime and then prison time. But now, with random breathalyzer and drug tests through the app, her life is taking a turn for the better.

The testing is monitored by video and Thompson is rewarded with up to $200 per month for not using, working and attending meetings.

“The reward, of pulling out my phone and saying to my daughter, ‘Look,” she says, is worth it.

DynamiCare Health App (WINK News)

DynamiCare Health developed the app she uses. Founder Eric Gastfriend says so far they’ve seen promising outcomes not only with opioid addicts, but also with alcohol addiction and smoking.

“It’s really tied to the reward system in the brain that’s driving the addiction and create a countervailing force of rewards for staying sober and staying in treatment,” said Gastfriend.

When asked if she sees more technology becoming more involved in treatment, Hazeldon Betty Ford Naples Executive Director Brenda Iliff said, “Absolutely! Absolutely! We use a lot of technology right here.”

She says they don’t use this specific app, but they’ve got other tools to help their clients overcome addiction.

“Any tools that can help people, for the long haul stay in recovery, we really want to utilize,” said Ford.

Some of the apps they do offer to clients include “Readings for Moms of Addicts,” “My Sober Life” and the “Cor-12” app, which helps clients track their progress away from addiction.

“There’s nothing wrong with going out and trying technology,” said Adam Armstrong, who lives in Lee County. He’s a recovering addict himself who has been sober for more than three years.

He says the more options people have, the better off they might be. “It’s great. It goes back to: we’ve got to try a bunch of different things.”

Thompson says she’s made more than $800 using the DynamiCare Health app.

“I honestly say from my heart, that app got me to where I am,” she said, and she learned she’s stronger than she thought.

Family members, friends, insurance companies and employers can cover the incentive payments for users.

Recently, DynamiCare was awarded $1 million for its innovation as part of the Opioid Technology Challenge.

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