Sensor technology holds promise to keep former drug addicts clean

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are studying chest-strap monitoring technology that tracks heart rate and respiration for its potential to track symptoms in cocaine users.

Dr. Jin Ho Yoon, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, is studying whether the Zephyr BioHarness can detect whether a recovering user has had a relapse, reports MobiHealthNews. He presented his findings at the recent American Telemedicine Association annual conference.

The monitoring technology has long been used to track the fitness of athletes and the progression of labor during childbirth.

In a 30-minute test, Yoon  used two groups of participants who had been addicted to cocaine--one given low-dosage intravenous cocaine in standard hospital beds, while a control group was given saline solution. The harness detected a sharp increase in heart rate among the cocaine group for the first 10 minutes after exposure and a rate higher than the control group for the entire test. There were similar elevations in respiration rate.

The BioHarness also was compared with standard hospital monitors every five minutes and provided more detailed information, Yoon said. With its lower cost and ability to be used outside the hospital, it holds the potential to help discharged patients--if the battery life could be improved. With only a one-day battery life, recovering addicts could easily avoid detection by claiming a dead battery--further pointing out the need for them to be motivated to quit.

In the future, Yoon wants to study whether the technology can be used to treat obesity and to help people stop smoking.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School have combined intelligence, smartphone programming, biosensors and Wi-Fi to develop the iHeal, a wristband that detects physiological changes associated with drug cravings, reports PsychCentral. It monitors factors such as changes in the electrical activity of the skin, body motion, skin temperature and heart rate. It's paired with smartphone software designed to provide patient-specific interventions based on the patient's stress level, cravings and activities at the time. A study published at Journal of Medical Toxicology found data-security issues still to be worked out, as well the need for a more robust and less-stigmatizing model.

With the massive growth in sensor technology, close to 5 million disposable wireless Medical Body Area Network (MBAN) sensors are expected to be sold in the next five years, , according to market intelligence company ABI Research.

Among their many uses, they're being tested as a means to detect and treat cancer, to prevent pressure sores in wheelchair users and to prevent diabetic foot amputations.

To learn more:
- here's the MobiHealthNews article
- find the PsychCentral story