Sunday , March 26 2023

Is there a risk of opioid overdose? It has an application


Drug users suffering from opioid overdose will soon be able to access the unusual lifestyle – the smartphone app.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed an app that can reveal when a person's breathing becomes dangerously slowing down or stopping.

Life-saving monitor possible

The second option program accurately revealed the symptoms of opioid overdose more than nine times in the 10 experimental tests that took place in Vancouver, Canada, where drug addicts can legally import illegal drugs and inject them under medical supervision.

Developers of the program are demanding approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to sell phone software as a potentially life-saving monitor for people using opioids, said researcher Shyamnath Gollakota. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, School of Computer Science and Engineering in Seattle.

"Given the importance of the problem and the number of dying people, we hope to get a quick status with the FDA so we can get it on the market as soon as possible," said Gollakota. He estimates that the application could be available within a year if its approval is fast.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70,000 deaths related to drug overdose occurred in 2017. Opioids were involved in 47,600 of these deaths, or almost 68%.

Opioid overdose kills a person, slowing down and finally stopping breathing, explains senior researcher Dr. Jacob Sunshine, an anaesthesiologist at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Unheard of sound waves

Opioid overdose may be replaced by naloxone, but "unfortunately, this is not enough and as a result people die in very large numbers," said Sunshine. "More than 115 people per day die from opioid overdoses in the US."

To help detect overdose, the research team developed an application that basically turns the smartphone into an active sonar system, says Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, Senior Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate of Computer Science and Engineering School, University of Washington.

The phone continuously transmits audible sound waves. "These signals are reflected in the human body, especially in the chest," said Nandakumar. "When a person breathes, the chest movement is perceived and reflected in the microphone. You can monitor a person's breathing motion using only a smartphone."

To test the app, the researchers collaborated with Insite-controlled injection equipment, the first legal-controlled drug use site in North America. In the center, drug users are allowed to inject street drugs in the presence of nurses and trained in overdose interventions.

Insite, 94 opioid users were accepted to test the app and the smartphone was placed on the table one meter away from the participants.

Simulated drug overdose

During testing, 47 users had a dangerously low respiration rate – seven or less breaths per minute, 49 stopped breathing for a considerable period of time, and two had an overdose of drugs that required treatment.

Approximately 90% of the time, the application correctly identified the respiratory problems that led to overdose, researchers reported.

By further testing the app, researchers asked 20 additional volunteers to actually go for "simulated" drug overdose. These simulated events took place in the UW Medical Center Operations Hall and involved healthy participants who had previously planned to conduct an operative operation.

Patients who agreed had received anesthetic agents that led to a slow or stopped breathing for 30 seconds. The smartphone was placed on a surgical stand about one meter from the patient.

The app correctly predicted 19 out of 20 simulated overdoses. In the event of a single failure, the patient's respiratory rate was slightly above the threshold at which an alarm occurred.

The idea is that the app will sound an alarm if it detects that the opioid user slows down or stops breathing, the authors of the study explained. A person should achieve and let the app know that they are good.

Very early conceptual model

"If they can't interact, it will contact either a loved one who has a naloxone or an emergency service," Nandakumar said to get a person in need of a rescue procedure.

Although technology is promising, it still needs more testing before it is ready for widespread use.

Muench noted that the settings that tested the app were very tightly controlled.

"The main problem with mobile apps and technologies is when you check it in a controlled environment, most of the time when it's not generalized to the real world," said Muench.

For example, how well the application will work if the human phone is in his pocket, that is, if most people keep it, he asked.

"This is a very early conceptual model that has the potential for growth and the opportunity to influence the year," said Muench. "I wouldn't be willing to endorse anything until it was tested in the real world," probably for people who naturally suffer from sleep apnea or respiratory problems.

The study was published in a journal Science Broadcasting Medicine.

Image credit: iStock

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