LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Our phones are filled with apps. From games to social media to restaurants and coffee shops, they are designed for fun, to help us connect and spend money.

A new smartphone app created by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has a bigger purpose: to save lives.

“I’m always on my phone, always looking at it, checking Facebook,” Kyle Brewer said.

It’s everything Kyle Brewer needs right at his fingertips.

“I’ve got my travel, my airlines and my Airbnb,” Brewer said.

Brewer’s phone is his lifeline, much like he is for those battling addiction.

“There are certain things you can say that really resonates with people and you can see the light come on, like you really get it,” Brewer said.

As a person in recovery himself, Brewer knows how important resources are to those who are struggling. It’s part of his job as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist to provide them to those who need it.

“If they need to go to detox or residential or outpatient treatment, I help facilitate that process,” Brewer said.

In Brewer’s eyes, the more resources, the better.

“Anything that’s reminding us to focus on our recovery I think is a positive thing,” Brewer said.  

Andrew James, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS agrees. This is why he, along with two colleagues, designed OptiMAT, a smartphone app aimed at decreasing opioid cravings and optimizing medication-assisted treatment among those with an opioid use disorder.

“It’s very similar to other behavioral apps like weight loss apps, dieting apps, smoking cessation apps, but we are focusing in on opioid misuse,” said Andrew James, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS.

The app allows you to monitor any opioid use, your daily cravings and mood and even gives personalized feedback when you meet your goals. It also alerts you if you’re an area known to increase your risk for abusing drugs or alcohol.

“We can program in the GPS coordinates into their phone and detect when they go into those areas and then immediately try and intervene via text messages to get them out of those areas before they relapse,” James said.

The app will be used in a clinical trial at UAMS in January. James said he hopes to one day see it utilized by those in recovery all around the country.

“With opioid use disorder, even with our best treatments, about 40 percent of patients will relapse within the first year so we are hoping this app will help prevent that,” James said.

For Brewer, it’s not just another app to add to his growing list, but one he believes has the potential to save lives.

“I don’t know how many apps I have on my phone, but I have a ton,” Brewer said. “Why not have one that is focusing on my recovery, which is the most important thing in my life and helping me to maintain that recovery?”

OptiMAT will be used in a clinical trial at UAMS by people receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, thanks to a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

James said the goal is to have it available to the public by the end of next year.