Preventing and treating drug use with smartphones

Clinical researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) are combining an innovative constellation of technologies such as artificial intelligence, smartphone programming, biosensors and wireless connectivity to develop a device designed to detect physiological stressors associated with drug cravings and respond with user-tailored behavioral interventions that prevent substance use. Preliminary data about the multi-media device, called iHeal, was published online first in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

According to the study's authors, many used to treat patients are ineffective outside of the controlled where they are taught. This failure can be attributed to several factors, including a patient's inability to recognize that indicate increased risk of relapse and an inability to change their behaviors to reduce health risk.

Edward Boyer, MD, PhD, professor of emergency medicine at UMass Medical School and lead author of the study, worked with colleagues at UMMS and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to design a mobile device using so-called "enabling technologies" that could be used to make behavioral interventions for substance abusers more effective outside the clinic or office environments. The result of their work, iHeal, combines sensors to measure physiological changes and detect trigger points for risky , such as substance use, with smartphone software tailored to respond with patient-specific interventions.

Individuals with a history of substance abuse and were asked to wear an iHeal sensor band around their wrist that measures the electrical activity of the skin, body motion, and heart rate – all indicators of stress. The band wirelessly transmits information to a smartphone, where software applications monitor and process the user's physiological data. When the software detects an increased stress level, it asks the user to annotate events by inputting information about their perceived level of stress, drug cravings, and current activities. This information is then used to identify, in real-time, drug cravings and deliver personalized, multimedia drug prevention interventions precisely at the moment of greatest physiological need.

Boyer and his teams examined the iHeal system architecture, as well as preliminary feedback from initial users, to identify key attributes and assess the device's viability. Their analyses suggest a number of technical issues related to data security, as well as the need for a more robust and less stigmatizing version before the device could be worn in public.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

iHeal: A mobile device for preventing and treating drug use

Feb 08, 2012

Imagine a device combining sensors to measure physiological changes. Then imagine a smartphone with software applications designed to respond to your bodily changes in an attempt to change your behavior. That is the vision ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments