Pittsburgh Company May Help Prevent Relapse with Wearable Devices
People with addictions usually have triggers – things that will send them looking for whatever they’re addicted to. It doesn’t matter whether their drug of choice is ice cream, chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes, prescription painkillers or cocaine. The triggers happen, the cravings follow, and the possibility of relapse gets to the point of it being unbearable. But a Pittsburgh company is developing a wearable device that could help warn addicts that the chances of relapse are getting higher, and they may be able to do something to prevent it.
The product the company is planning to make is still in development but the basic plan is this – to find out what physiological factors precede relapse, help the person – through the wearables – make the recovering addict aware of the presence of their triggers, so they can do something to get rid of the triggers or, at least, be able to see them for what they are so they don’t pop a pill, have a drink, etc.
No one knows if this is going to work. But I think it could really help some people.
For example: stress is, of course, a big reason people engage in addictive behavior. But the body’s stress response is a complex thing and, often, people can’t recognize that those changes / responses things are happening.
Some types of stress reaction are obvious. The heart beats faster, breath quickens, you start sweating, muscles get tense. These might be a reaction to ‘good’ stress, excitement related to a type of work you love or during exercise (that is not beyond your ability or safety), or “bad stress,” you’re behind on several bills and about to get evicted or you’re worried about losing your job. These are part of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism we’ve evolved with that make us aware of potential danger and initiates the changes in our body that get us ready to engage in physical combat or run like heck!
Other physical reactions to stress may or may not be as obvious.
- blood pressure could go up a lot without the person being aware of ANY change
- adrenal glands can pump more adrenalin into the body
- small airways to the lungs open wider so the person can take in more oxygen
- sight, hearing and other senses become more acute
- the person becomes more mentally alert because of extra oxygen being sent to the brain
- more glucose and fat are released into the bloodstream where they provide more energy to all parts of the body so it can physically cope with the emergency (stress)
- You don’t get a warning about these things. In fact, they happen so quickly that people aren’t usually even aware of them.
However, if someone was wearing a device that showed some of these changes occurring, it could act as a warning to get out of whatever the situation is if at all possible because… it could very well lead to wanting a drink, a pill, a needle, however the drug is delivered. And wanting any of these badly could lead to taking / using them = relapse.
I see this as similar to knowing other things about how the body works and using that information to control bad habits. For example, many people can’t tell the difference between their body being hungry or thirsty. So they get some kind of message – obvious or subliminal – that their body needs something but they don’t know what it is. They just assume it’s food. The body has a craving = must need food.
So they get fat. But, if they knew that most of that time the body was craving water, not food, they would not only not get fat, they would also be better hydrated – which is something just about everyone could use.
The devices are being developed by a Pittsurgh start-up called ‘BehAIvior.’ The AI in caps in the middle of the word stands for ‘artificial intelligence’. It won’t be on the market for many years – isn’t it annoying that so many potentially good things take SO long to get on the market? But just knowing this information can help you start acting on it right now. If you’re trying to not drink, not take drugs, or even not eat chocolate, watch for those physical and emotional changes in your body and mind and recognize them for what they are – the beginnings of stress, which could lead to relapse. If you do something about it then and there, it may help prevent you from taking that next destructive step in the relapse process.
And if your cravings go on and on and on, it’s possible you may need more of a drug rehab program to help you get back to yourself instead of having so much attention on drugs or alcohol. We can help you find a good program near you. Call us at 855-895-2090.