Mobile devices aid individuals with PTSD, substance use problems

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 (PTSD).

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.

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 (Johnson, Boston Globe, 2/27; Valigra, Mass High Tech, 2/23).

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