Can Telehealth Improve Opioid Abuse Treatment in the United States?

How Telehealth is Changing Substance Abuse Treatment

The opioid crisis reached a fever pitch in recent years with the White House, Congress, healthcare leaders, and the criminal justice system all work to address addiction. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, over 130 people in the United States die every day from an opioid overdose. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that opioid misuse costs the U.S. economy $78.5 billion a year, including addiction and recovery treatment, loss of worker productivity, and legal costs. 

As more patients struggle with pain management and addiction recovery, many health organizations are looking at telehealth as a possible solution to the opioid crisis. The National Institute of Health recently announced that it’s launching a $155 million project known as the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN), which will incorporate telehealth into the addiction recovery treatment process. The project will focus on serving patients within the U.S. prison and criminal justice systems, helping those transitioning back into the local community to avoid relapse and overdose. 

On-Demand Access to Caregivers, Addiction Support, and Recovery Tools

Telehealth can help those struggling with addiction recovery connect with healthcare providers, support groups, and other recovery information. These patients can access these services in times of crisis from the comfort of their own homes, so they don’t have to worry about scheduling time off work or dealing with the stigma of seeking recovery services in person. When a patient experiences an addiction-related crisis, time is of the essence, so providing these services on-demand can help reduce wait times for these types of services. 

The opioid crisis has disproportionately affected rural Americans, many of whom lack access to counseling and addiction recovery services. Telehealth can ease the burden of travel for these patients, so they can access these services as quickly as possible. 

Increasing Collaboration with Substance Abuse Experts

If a patient struggling with addiction reaches out to their primary care provider or a physician for pain management or addiction recovery services, providers can use live video and audio to connect and collaborate with substance abuse experts. If a provider has a question about prescription protocols for pain management or addiction recovery, they can quickly connect with professionals that specialize in these types of services, so they can better serve their patients dealing with recovery. Increasing collaboration between providers can help reduce the risk of relapse and overdose. 

Improving Pain Management

Studies show roughly 21-29% of patients that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain will misuse them, and between 8% and 12% of these patients develop an opioid use disorder.

To reverse these trends, providers are starting to experiment with devices that can help prevent addiction and opioid misuse, including patches, ingestibles, and wearable medical devices. These devices can deliver timed doses of pain medication to users to help prevent misuse and overdose. This helps users better manage their pain, stress, and addiction urges. Wearable devices can also monitor a patient’s vitals and issue alerts to the user or their care providers in case of an emergency. 

Mapping Out the Recovery Process 

With remote patient monitoring, online consultations, and wearable devices, providers and addiction recovery experts can start mapping out the entire recovery process by collecting data from their patients. They can learn more about the daily struggles of these patients in order to improve the addiction recovery process and various treatment methods. The more providers learn about the experiences of these patients, the better equipped they will be to treat opioid addiction at the source. 

As the opioid crisis continues to affect communities all over the country, providers are rethinking the way they address issues of addiction and pain management, thanks in large part to telehealth. Many patients may feel isolated from peer support groups, addiction experts, and other recovery platforms, but telehealth is breaking down these barriers to help every patient access the services they need to overcome addiction. For more information on how telehealth is changing addiction recovery and pain management, visit InTouch Health today.