A Lexington-based company hopes to reconfigure addiction support and recovery for the digital age.
"If you have internet access you can have access to recovery information," explained Drew Ingram, chief executive officer of Recovering(me), a 36-lesson online curriculum focused on addiction education.
The pay-subscription program would allow users to review educational videos and information, then take a quiz to show they understand the material. Recovering(me) also allows counselors, doctors or drug court officials to monitor clients' progress through the lessons, Ingram said.
Once an individual signs onto the program they can review the material as many times as they'd like.
Ingram began working on the idea in 2009 with his father, Dr. Tom Ingram. As a physician, Tom Ingram treated patients with addiction for 20 years in Elizabethtown. When medication-assisted therapy — that helps curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms to aid in behavioral therapy or counseling — become accepted in recent years, Tom Ingram found he didn't have the time or resources to provide both.
So in 2009 the duo began to craft an online educational tool to fill that gap. They began pursuing the project in earnest in 2012.
Holly Dye, vice president for sales and marketing, had experience in researching drug addiction including a stint at University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research before joining Recovering(me) this summer.
When she met Drew Ingram she was working on a similar online effort of her own aimed at mothers in recovery.
So why this product and why now?
First, there is a need, said Dye. Some 60 million Americans suffer from substance abuse. And, in this digital age, people are engaging in the world in a different way, especially people under the age of 35, Drew Ingram said.
The grandfather of most current treatment is the 12-step, recovery group model begun by Alcoholics Anonymous. But, Ingram said, there are plenty of places in Kentucky and elsewhere where recovery meetings are hard to find.
Plus, he said, alcoholism and drug addiction still carry a social stigma that make some people reluctant to make a public proclamation of their disease. On top of that, some 12-step groups don't support medication-assisted treatment, preferring a more zero-use approach.
But at the core of the project is the belief that addiction is a medical disease, not a mental or personal failure, and should be treated the same as other chronic diseases. And to treat the disease, people need to be educated about it, Dye said.
The online lessons in the curriculum range from how alcohol or drugs interact with the brain to the basics of recovery programs.
"It is the same as someone who has diabetes. They have to learn that this is something that is not going to go away and how to handle it," Dye said. Hospitals and health departments offer plenty of free or inexpensive diabetes education programs but few if any for addiction education and support.
The Affordable Care Act requires that coverage for addiction is one of the 10 essential health benefits that must be included in all insurance plans. That, Drew Ingram said, creates a vast potential market for the product.
The duo has done some limited testing with 21 of Tom Ingram's patients that show the online program is as effective as other standard methods of treatment. Recovering(me) has begun several other pilot programs with detox physicians, hospital and judicial systems, and state and federal agencies. The company is on track to enroll more than 1,000 clients by spring of 2014.
Dye stresses that Recovering(me) is not meant as a replacement for traditional treatment methods including in-patient detox, which is often a medical necessity for those with long-term addiction. But, she said, it can be another tool to help people stay clean and sober.
Drew Ingram said he sees it as a program to augment programs like Drug Court, where people with drug-related offenses avoid jail time by committing to court supervision and a plan of action that includes staying clean and learning about recovery.
Recovering(me) also offers free recovery resources such as a blog, stories of individuals in recovery, a discussion forum and basic information about addiction.
The program is still a fledging effort, although Drew Ingram said as the Affordable Care Act rolls out more people are expressing interest.
"We think Recovering(me) would be a great early intervention recovery program that could be offered by insurance companies," said Dye.
He hopes that one day Recovering(me) "will become synonymous with online recovery."