Mobile Devices Aid Individuals With PTSD, Substance Use Problems

TOPIC ALERT:

Researchers have published preliminary data in the Journal of Medical Toxicology on a new device that uses wireless sensors and smartphone technology to provide support for individuals with substance misuse problems or post-traumatic stress disorder, the Boston Globe reports (Johnson, Boston Globe, 2/27).

Device

The mobile device -- called iHeal -- can measure symptoms and detect patterns of an emerging drug craving or anxiety attack. It is worn around the wrist to measure:

  • Skin temperature;
  • Heart rates; and
  • Other stress indicators.

The band sends signals to a smartphone, where software applications process and monitor the incoming data.

When the software detects high stress levels, it sends a message to the wearer's smartphone asking how they are feeling.

Feedback is used to create personalized interventions, according to researchers (Valigra, Mass High Tech, 2/23).

Implications

According to lead study author Rich Fletcher -- an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory -- the technology could be used to supplement care given by a psychiatrist or therapist. It also could increase a patient's engagement in drug misuse or PTSD treatment programs.

Future Research

Fletcher said future research involving iHeal will focus on:

  • Which interventions are most effective in helping patients manage stress; and
  • Improving the software's ability to interpret sensory data (Boston Globe, 2/27).

Researchers also said that technical issues, such as privacy and design, should be addressed before the device progresses past the experimental stage (Mass High Tech, 2/23).


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