Startups

Digitizing substance abuse treatment and recovery

Sparklite, founded by a recovering substance abuse addict, digitized post treatment follow-up in an effort to improve communication with participants and referrals.

This post has been updated from an earlier version.

There’s been a certain amount of fanfare over the potential for digital health companies’ to bridge what have traditionally been two separate realms of healthcare — primary care and behavioral healthcare. Telepsychology niche players have sprouted over the past few years with varying levels of success. But one area that tends to get overlooked is substance abuse and alcoholism in particular.

This week at Blueprint Health‘s demo day, Lauren Stahl talked about her journey from working on Wall Street in UBS Equity Sales division to substance abuse addiction, recovering from that experience and setting up Sparkite. Her goal was to reduce the depressing statistics she cited that 60 percent of people who go to drug or alcohol rehab relapse after one year and another 80 percent will go to another facility.

Stahl believes the lack of or limited follow-up care by these facilities was to blame so she developed an aftercare support solution. It connects addiction treatment facilities with their clients. The idea is that by maintaining a connection with residents when their programs end, they can know how their patient population is faring afterwards. People would download the app at the time they leave the program and receive weekly quality of life surveys to fill out. From a business point of view, they can influence the likelihood that if they do relapse, they’ll return to the previous facility rather than going to a new one. The treatment centers get billed for on a monthly basis for the service.

Stahl said the business is raising $600,000 to expand growth through sales and marketing support. Among the companies it’s working with are a substance abuse treatment center aimed at men called Arrowhead Lodge and Freedom Institute in New York.

Addicaid, a startup that’s in the latest Dreamit Ventures accelerator cohort, formed its business on an app initially to help people identify and find good support groups in their area. That led to the development of tech to support addiction recovery — to make it easier and more accessible. A lot of it is through content aimed at supporting the different stages of addiction across prevention, treatment and recovery through a section called “Score.” There are myriad articles drug addictions from cocaine and opiates. Its bright graphics and smart design is pretty engaging, almost too much. Although the content side seems well thought out, the rest of the website feels very much like a work in progress. Once it’s time in the accelerator program at DreamIt comes to an end, it will be worth having another look to see how the website has evolved.

Pear Therapeutics developed reSET as a prescription digital therapy to treat opioid dependence. In a study, it claimed that patients who received reSET instead of therapist time showed higher rates of abstinence and higher rates of retention in treatment than patients receiving face-to-face therapy. In February the company said it planned to submit this treatment for substance abuse to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2016. Digital therapeutics is a very interesting area but it’s new for the FDA to assess applications that combine pharmaceuticals and digital health. If the setback Proteus Digital Health experienced this week is anything to go by, it could potentially take longer than expected before reSET gets a greenlight from U.S. regulators.