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Would You Use an App to Taper Off Suboxone?

There’s an app for pretty much everything these days. And soon, there will be one to come off Suboxone.

The new app, currently being called “OffBup” is still being designed, but it’s meant to help patients who are tapering off buprenorphine (Suboxone and Subutex). Its creators hope to provide tools that will help people stop the use of buprenorphine and prevent relapse.

Collaborators on the project include thought leaders from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Brown University, and Boston University. Leading the research team is Michael Stein, physician and addiction expert at Boston University School of Public Health.

Current Treatment Lacks Follow-Up Support

Across the nation, roughly 1.5 million Americans seek treatment each year for an opioid use disorder.

Buprenorphine is a go-to source for a large portion of these patients and many are prescribed buprenorphine. But eventually, they want to taper off the medication and stop taking it altogether.

Stein notes, “Buprenorphine is an effective treatment, but at a certain point – either out of personal preference, because they no longer want to take medication, or necessity, because they can’t afford it – treatment comes to an end. Because we know there are significant side effects to stopping buprenorphine, we think “OffBup” will help people get through these and remain drug-free.”

He notes “OffBup” will be “a resource that patients can access anytime and anywhere.”

Filling the Void

When someone tapers off, or detoxes, from buprenorphine use, they can suffer withdrawal symptoms. Vomiting, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms are common.

The psychological withdrawal is often even more challenging than the physical discomforts. Unfortunately, resources for managing buprenorphine discontinuation are few and far between. “OffBup” creators hope to fill this gap with their app. It will aid people in managing these challenging side effects.

The app will include a range of support tools, including:

  • Education
  • Self-monitoring
  • Timeline of expected withdrawal symptoms
  • List of questions to ask clinicians
  • Audio and video elements that can be accessed on demand
  • Tracking tool to visualize progress
  • Guided meditations
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Feedback/rewards for reaching milestones

The team is developing the app using a two-year grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health. Their goal is to complete the development phase in year one and launch the app in a pilot program at Butler Hospital in the second year.

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