Opioid Overdose Detection? There’s (Almost) an App for That

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Opioid Epidemic

While the opioid antidote naloxone, or Narcan, has saved many lives from a sudden overdose, the problem is that people who overdose cannot call for help. Researchers from the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app, named Second Chance, that monitors breathing patterns to detect if an opioid overdose has occurred and alerts emergency services.

The app is not yet available, but the developers have requested a fast-track review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Researcher Shyamnath Gollakota, an associate professor with the UW School of Computer Science and Engineering, estimated that the app could be available within a year if the approval is expedited.

According to the University’s announcement of the new technology, “The app accurately detects overdose-related symptoms about 90 percent of the time and can track someone’s breathing from up to 3 feet away. The team published its results Jan. 9 in Science Translational Medicine.” 

An opioid overdose has claimed 47,600 lives in 2017, attributing to 68 percent of the 70,000 drug overdose deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Opioid overdose kills a person by slowing and then eventually ceasing their breathing.

Narcan successfully reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, but unfortunately those who have overdosed do not have the ability to call for help. Today, more than 115 people per day are dying from an opioid overdose in the U.S.

The app helps to detect an overdose by bouncing sound waves off a person’s chest such that the breathing motion of the person in monitored using a smartphone.

Co-corresponding author Dr. Jacob Sunshine, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the UW School of Medicine, said: “We’re experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of deaths from opioid use, and it’s unfortunate because these overdoses are completely reversible phenomena if they’re detected in time. 

“The goal of this project is to try to connect people who are often experiencing overdoses alone to known therapies that can save their lives. We hope that by keeping people safer, they can eventually access long-term treatment.”

We at New Season are encouraged by the promise of this app to save lives, and we’re standing by to help those who are ready to access long-term treatment. If you are that someone, call us at 1-877-284-7074 or email us at newseason@cmglp.com

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