An experimental application could see overdoses of drugs for help in a timely manner


WASHINGTON – Often people die because of an overdose of opioids because no one can notice that they are in trouble. Now scientists create an application for a smartphone that transmits sound waves to measure breathing – and recalls help if it stops.

The application is still tested. But in the new test, the "Second Chance" application detected early signs of overdose in critical minutes after people injected heroin or other illegal drugs, researchers reported.

One question is whether most drug users would pull out their phone and turn on the application before firing. The University of Washington research group argues that it could offer a very necessary tool for people who have not yet found treatment for addiction.

"They do not try to kill themselves – they depend on these drugs. They have an incentive to be safe, "said Shyamnath Gollakota, associate professor of engineering and computing, whose laboratory transforms regular mobile phones into temporary sonar devices.

But an emergency room doctor who regularly takes care of patients with an overdose is wondering how many people would really try such a device.

"This is an innovative way to attack the problem," said Dr. Zachary Dezman from the medical school of the University of Maryland, who was not involved in the study.

Still, "I do not know if many will be prepared to prepare many people using substances," he added.

More than 47,000 people in the US died of overdose opioids in 2017. Drugs are inhibiting respiration, but a drug called naloxone can often save victims – if it reaches them in time. Usually this means that someone has to witness a collapse. Dr. Jacob Sunshine, an anesthetist at the University of Washington, notes that people have died with a relative in a neighboring room without knowing they are in trouble.

The research group decided to use mobile phones as potential monitors for overdose because almost everyone has one. They designed an application that measures how someone rises and descends to see if they slide into a slow, shallow inhalation of an overdose, or completely stop breathing.

How? The software converts the built-in loudspeaker and microphone into the phone to send in inaccessible sound waves and record how they are repelled. Signal analysis shows specific breathing patterns.

It will not work in your pocket, but people will have to stay at a distance of 3 feet. Researchers are in a process that allows an application to be able to choose for help if any overdose is detected.

The experimental device was put on the test on the first North American side with a controlled injection in Vancouver, British Columbia, where people can enter illicit drugs and be injected under medical supervision in the event of an overdose. The study participants agreed that the doctoral student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar will install a mobile phone nearby during a regular visit.

The software correctly identified breathing problems that could be a sign of overdose – seven or less breaths per minute or breathing breaks – 90 percent of the time, according to researchers. Most were almost unsuccessful; two of the 94 study participants had to be revived.

For a larger test, the researchers then turned to people who did not abuse drugs, but soon they received anesthesia for elective surgery. Showing someone in the unconsciousness of the surgery imitates how overdosage turns off breathing.

Measurement of 30 seconds of slowed or absent breathing when these patients were given, the application correctly predicted 19 out of 20 simulated overdoses, according to researchers. One missed case was a patient who was breathing slightly faster than an application crash.

The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Researchers have patented the invention and intend to obtain a license for the administration of medicines and medicines.

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Scientific Education at the Medical Institute Howard Hughes. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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