When someone is overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol there is always a risk for relapse. In the past, tracking drug addiction relapses has been challenging. But, thanks to University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers, that might become much easier. Can technology really help to prevent relapse? Or are we better off having rehabs in California, and beyond, teaching relapse prevention skills and techniques as a main component of their program?
The group is testing a wearable device, called the E4 Empatica wristband, which will measure heartbeat, motion, temperature, and skin electrical conductance. The device takes measurements 30 times every second. It takes less than two hours to charge the wristband, which can store 60 hours of data. Then that data can be uploaded to the Cloud via Bluetooth.
Doctors hope that by knowing the times that those who abuse drugs relapse, and how that relapse effects their bodies, they can improve the intervention methods. The researchers are using the project in their search for psychological symptoms the device can detect that might indicate a relapse is near for the individual in question. Researchers say that once these symptoms have been defined, the device could be programmed so that these symptoms alert a sponsor or a physician. Then, that sponsor or physician can reach out to the individual before the actual relapse happens.
How the Biosensors Can Help Prevent Relapse
Researchers pointed out that substance abuse and relapses occur when the patient is out of the reach of doctors and sponsors. These relapses happen when the individual wanders back into his or her environment. With the device, researchers can get contextual information that will allow them to determine what the triggers are and help the patient avoid those triggers. Stephanie Carreiro has led two such studies regarding the device.
She published one study where 15 cocaine users wore the wristband for a month, and the device was 100% effective in detecting when the individual used the drug. According to Carreiro, when cocaine is used, the skin temperature drops as the skin electrical conductance soars. Excess movement is detected by the device as the individual becomes more agitated.
Prevent Relapse With Opioids
One study using the wristband biosensors involved 30 patients in the emergency room of a hospital. All those patients were given opioids intravenously for pain. While some of those participating in the study used opioids daily, others rarely used the drugs or never used them at all. With the biosensors, researchers could determine when the opioid was injected into the patient by the increasing body temperature and by the patient having less body movement, according to Medical Daily. Those who used drugs daily had fewer movement changes than those who used them rarely.
The data could help physicians track the tolerance of patients to painkillers. This information might help them prevent addiction while patients are undergoing treatment for acute or chronic pain. In a press release, Carreiro said that the patterns could be useful in detecting real-time episodes of opioid use. Opioid use is a major cause of mortality in the U.S. However, effective drug treatment programs only have limited means for the detection of relapsed use of the drug.
Learning How To Be More Effective When Trying To Prevent Relapse
With the biosensor wristbands, researchers are hoping to improve the detection of drug use relapses by getting real-time, objective physiological data that treating clinicians can use to make behavioral interventions and prevent relapse. If you or a loved one is suffering from any kind of drug addiction, seek help from a qualified rehab center. Call Ocean Hills Recovery today to learn about the different treatment programs available to stop addiction in its tracks.