Relapses can be a very common yet disappointing part of recovery. If only there was some kind of device that can warn you when you are exhibiting the signs of relapse before it actually happens. The NYU Grossman School of Medicine developed a computer game that can predict whether or not a person in recovery will re-use pain relieving drugs.

Motivation for the Game

The NYU Grossman School of Medicine led this study as they know that a majority of patients reuse at some point during treatment and more than half relapse within a year in therapy. Even though drug treatment medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone are good at weaning patients off opioids, but do not do a good job at measuring how well patients respond to treatment and when treatment should change to prevent reuse. NYU felt like current techniques rely too much on cravings and urine tests which are only effective after reuse. And after all, patients are not considered to have relapsed unless they do not return and complete a standard six-month treatment plan. 

What Happened in the Game

This game tests each person’s comfort level with risk-taking producing mathematical scores to measure their willingness to try new products. Then, a statistical test was used to see if changes in risk-taking comfort were tracked with opioid use. Researchers recruited 70 men and women going through opioid addiction addiction therapy at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. Each played the game regularly for seven months when they came in for weekly or monthly clinic visits. The results were compared to 50 other patients who were never addicted to drugs. 

Patients had the option of accepting a known risk like an immediate chip reward of $5 or gambling on a greater reward. Some bags had two chips of a 50% chance of winning with other players had more chips with an unpredictable chance of winning. Risk scores were plotted on a graph for tracking each player’s willingness to take known or unknown risks. The study found that patients with big increases in their scores were 85% likely to reuse within the next week. Beta scores with no spikes were less likely to reuse. Once this game becomes an app, it can be useful in providing daily monitoring of patients’ progress. Apps like this can send medical and mental health support teams alerts when a patient is vulnerable for opioid reuse.

At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.


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You understand your needs best. If you have found yourself at a crossroads in your treatment and feel like your program options don’t fully understand you or aspects of your recovery, it’s time to contact the specialists at Alta Loma. We will help you craft the ideal care plan and secure the support you need, quickly, to avoid unnecessary problems. At Alta Loma, that’s our mission — to provide each individual with optimum care for the wellbeing they deserve.