Image source: Pavlok

Intelligent wearables that can help overcome addiction

Addiction is more common than many people realize. Excluding tobacco, over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have a substance abuse disorder. This can be tough to deal with, and many people need help to recover. Unfortunately most don’t get the treatment they need.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

The good news is the wearable tech industry is developing solutions for those who require a helping hand. There are options out there for a wide range of addictions. And it’s only going to get better from here. If you need to kick your habit once and for all, one of these devices may help.


Smoking

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Image source: PublicDomainPictures.net

Trying to quit smoking is a little easier with smoking bans in public places coming into effect around the world. But it can still be tough to break the habit. The smoking cessation market is expected to increase to $42.3bn in four years time from around $19bn in 2019.

There lots of other apps out there you can use, some of which work with smartwatches.

One such option is the Smoke Free Apple Watch app. It tells you how much money you’ve saved, how many cigarettes you’ve not smoked, how long you’ve been smoke free, how much life you’ve regained and more. Having a reminder of these things on your wrist helps when you are tempted to reach for that cigarette. And who knows, save enough of those pennies and you might have enough for a new iPhone.

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Smoke Free | Source: Apple

There are also some hardware options in the works.

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Pivot

Researchers from the University of Taiwan are looking at “smart tooth” technology. This oral implant will be able to detect what you are eating and drinking, and also sense if you are smoking. It could be used to help quitters when it becomes available on the mass market.

Similarly, Chrono Therapeutics are developing a wearable which delivers nicotine directly into the bloodstream. This helps to slowly wean smokers off nicotine by giving them doses at the points where their cravings are strongest. This is purported to be a more effective solution than nicotine patches, and can be removed once the addiction has been beaten. The device is currently in clinical trials.

Pivot‘s approach starts with the FDA-cleared Pivot Breath Sensor. This is a hand held breathalyzer which helps participants see changes in their smoking behavior in real time. This is combined with the Pivot app which provides interactive lessons and activities to help with quitting.


Cocaine and heroin addiction

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Image source: Max Pixel

There may soon be a wearable device to help wean users off cocaine and heroin, though the concept is still in development.

Researchers are working on a biosensor device to track physiological reactions such as heart rate increase to determine when a person is taking drugs. This can be used to create accountability. Rather than relapsing without witnesses, the addict will have a doctor or counsellor monitoring his vitals information and thus knowing when they have fallen off the wagon.


Tech addiction

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Image source: Pavlok

It may seem odd, but there is a piece of tech that can help you get overcome your tech addiction. This goes way beyond Apple’s screen-time monitor.

Pavlok is a wristband that has been designed to stop you from overusing your other tech and devices, such as your smartphone or tablet. It helps you to set goals and change your habits, with positive reinforcement if you manage to stay on track.

Fall off the wagon and check your notifications one too many times, and you will be punished. You might get an electric shock, or public messages posted on your Facebook page saying that you have spent too much time online. You can also use the vibrate or beep stimuli if a zap is not right for you.

Essential reading: Review, Pavlok – zap yourself into breaking bad habits

The electrical stimulus is carefully designed so that it is enough to be uncomfortable, but not so strong that it hurts. It’s a lot like a static shock you get when you touch a doorknob after rubbing your feet on the carpet. Pretty soon, your brain associates the stimulus with the bad habit, creating an aversion.

Pavloc says its wearable can be trained to help you overcome a host of other bad habits as well. This includes: smoking, swearing, overeating, hitting snooze, lack of productivity, all work and no play, snacking, hair picking, skin picking and procrastinating.

Looking forward, the options to help with addictions should become much better. As we move away from the wrist, solutions will be found that monitor a wider range of reactions and will not be so easy to remove or fool.

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Zoe Anderson

Zoe Anderson is an avid blogger deeply interested in the ways modern technology changes our lives. With her background in education and a drive to make the world just a little bit better, Zoe is currently supporting Study Select – experts in the field of training and education.

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