Could a medical Fitbit help aid drug rehab?

Could a device similar to a FitBit help a recovering drug addict stay sober? Researchers at UMass Medical School are testing a real-time mobile wrist sensor that could alert physicians if a rehab patient is craving or using drugs.

Stephanie Carreiro, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine; Edward W. Boyer, MD, professor of emergency medicine; and colleagues conducted an observational study using the Q Sensor, a state-of-the-art portable biosensor—similar to health tracking devices on the market such as the FitBit.

In the study, published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, researchers reported how they used the device to monitor four emergency room patients who received IV opioids, and one who used cocaine. Immediately after the drugs were administered, researchers began to measure movement and physiological signals, including electrodermal activity (EDA), skin temperature and acceleration of heart rate. Data was recorded for at least five minutes prior to drug administration, during administration and at least 30 minutes after all and delivered to researchers in real-time.

“Under the controlled environment, E4 was able to detect the administration of opioids as well as cocaine and the patients’ response to receiving the drugs” said Dr. Carreiro. “That kind of real-time analysis provided by the device shows promise and may aid in addiction recovery to inform health care experts when a patient might be suffering from a relapse outside of a clinical setting.”

Carreiro noted the study was small in scale, but they have since conducted two larger studies. One was with opioid while the other was with cocaine use. Carreiro is working to get that research published.

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