Are you an app developer, or do you know someone who is? Then the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) has a challenge for you: create an app that will in some way aid or enhance addiction research. Fortune reports that the app must be created using the medical research framework offered by Apple called ResearchKit, an open-source software kit that is designed for health and biomedical research accessed through an iPhone, but other than that, it’s open season. Researchers who are successful will be awarded a total of $100,000 (first place is $50,000; second place is $30,000; and third place is $20,000).
NIDA is calling the challenge “Addiction Research: There’s an App for that,” and calls for developers to “create an app to be used by addiction researchers in future studies which will help to improve the scientific understanding of drug use and addiction.”
According to a news release, the specific areas of addiction research that NIDA is hoping to tackle through the use of these newly developed apps include:
• Cannabinoids (synthetic and natural marijuana)
• Opiate drugs (e.g., heroin and prescription painkillers)
• Addictive prescription medications
Contribute to the Tradition of Addiction Research
Perhaps the unique feature of these apps is the goal of NIDA to make them user friendly for “citizen scientists.” Like “citizen journalists” who report from the scene of breaking news to major events using smartphones, often shooting videos of events as they take place, “citizen scientists” would voluntarily use the apps to provide “informed consent” materials and collect data that would include a broad range of variables.
Apple’s ResearchKit has already been used for this purpose successfully since its introduction in March of this year. Developers created an app that asked about a participant’s condition, and then participants downloaded the app to their iPhones or Apple Watches and input data. Additionally, data can automatically, especially with the Apple Watch, include GPS location of the individual and heart rate. One example is an app for people living with asthma that was developed by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York – 50,000 people downloaded the app and 2,000 people regularly contributed data using it.
Research Participants Needed
If you’re considering entering the contest, you have until April 29, 2016, but if you’re not tech-savvy, you too can have a positive impact on addiction research and other medical research as well. Keep checking in to see what apps are in development and in what areas; if one applies to your circumstance or condition, then download it and commit to entering in information regularly.
Other Ways to Contribute
If you aren’t interested in developing an app and if you aren’t eligible for any of the available mobile research apps, you can still be part of the solution when it comes to the problem of ongoing drug abuse and addiction in the United States. Some of the many ways you can make a difference include:
• Telling your story. If you have ever lived with a drug use or addiction problem in your own life and successfully made it through treatment into recovery, or if someone you love has struggled with addiction, sharing your story with the news media, at addiction awareness events, and online can help to educate others. For those living in active addiction, hearing your story may help them to decide to reach out for treatment. If people are still in the stage of experimentation with drugs, they may decide not to take it any further as a result of hearing what you had to share on the subject.
• Volunteering in outreach. There are a number of nonprofit organizations in every part of the country that have volunteer positions available. From administration positions to fundraising efforts to handing out supplies to clients, or meeting with them and helping them to get to the next level of help, you can apply your skills and expertise and give back to the community.
• Donating to the cause. If you have money that you set aside for donation purposes, consider giving it to an addiction treatment or service organization. Make sure to thoroughly investigate any nonprofit or institution that you are donating to and make sure that a high percentage of your dollars are going to provide services to people in need and not to overhead costs.
• Lobbying legislators. Showing up for protests, signing the right petitions, taking part in the online conversation on social media, writing letters or calling your legislators – all of these things get the attention of the people at the state capitol and the country’s capitol, the ones who are responsible for creating legislative change that will increase access to treatment and services and support for people who need them.
• Voting. You can make a difference in the laws that are made by showing up to the polls and voting into office legislators who have voiced opinions and goals that mirror your hopes for the future when it comes to addiction treatment and recovery. Even if there is only a single issue about which you feel strongly enough to vote, it’s worth it to pay attention to the issues, know the people who are running and what they are about, and to hit the booth on election day and help the right people get into office.