4 Trends to Watch in 2023, According to a Digital Substance Use Disorder Company

As addiction rates continue to climb, there are some positives emerging when it comes to the substance use disorder space, including a growing interest in virtual health platforms, according to CHESS Health’s CEO. 

Rochester, New York-based CHESS Health is a digital health company for substance use disorder. It provides solutions for addiction prevention, intervention and treatment and recovery. The startup also recently launched a Spanish version of its app called Conexiones.

Here are four trends to watch in 2023, according to Hans Morefield, CEO of CHESS Health.

  1. Addiction rates are rising

More than 20 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with a substance use disorder in 2019, but only 10.3% received treatment. Additionally, nearly 92,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2020, with fentanyl deaths drastically climbing. Covid-19 has only worsened the problem.

“We haven’t turned the corner yet,” Morefield said in an interview. “If anything, the suggestions are that the trends are looking worse … There’s just a lot more that we as a country need to do in addressing those trends.”

  1. More people are becoming comfortable with health tech for substance use disorder treatment

One of the difficulties with increased substance use is that there is a staffing shortage of professionals who can treat the issue. However, virtual health is easing that problem, Morefield said. Covid-19 greatly expanded access to virtual health, especially mental health. Even seniors are showing interest in virtual health. While most patients aged 65 years and older prefer in-person care, many still report being satisfied with telehealth and want it as an option, according to the American Medical Association.

“The challenge is that the workforce is really strained,” Morefield said. “The positive is that the use of technology is expanding who can access treatment.”

One of the biggest benefits of virtual care when it comes to substance use is the ability to receive support in between treatment visits, Morefield added.

“Individuals don’t return to use during therapy sessions,” he stated. “They return to use in the 167 hours between sessions when they’re facing triggers or they’re struggling with cravings or they get into a spiral of negative thinking and they have difficulty sleeping.”

  1. Technology will become a strategy in addressing health inequity

Access to substance use disorder treatment varies by race, research shows. For example, 90% of Black Americans and 92% of Latino Americans diagnosed with substance use disorder did not receive treatment in 2019, according to recent data. It was for this reason that CHESS decided to create a Spanish-language version of its app with access to Spanish-speaking peer recovery support specialists.

“It’s one thing to translate an app and say, ‘Well I’ll just translate all the wording in here and now I have a Spanish-language version’ … Not only are individuals using an app that’s in their preferred language, they’re getting supported by individuals who are bilingual and also represent the culture that they’re from,” Morefield said.

  1. Government programs will help fight substance use disorder challenges

So far, 40 states (including the District of Columbia) have expanded Medicaid and 11 states have not expanded Medicaid. This provides more funding for providers to address substance use and mental health. Additionally, the recent omnibus bill passed by Congress includes additional funding for substance use disorder. Employers are also starting to fund more programs that address substance use and mental health, Morefield said.

“All of this funding and attention from the government, all the way through to employers is part of what’s driving new solutions and services,” he said. “Hopefully a year from now, two years from now, we’ll be talking about an improving set of trends.”

Picture: Benjavisa, Getty Images