Opioids, a National Crisis

In the United States we are seeing 130 overdose deaths a day from Opioids.  As we enter 2019, these overdoses are on the rise, causing The National Institute on Drug Abuse, to call it a national crisis.  Although, the medical community, and government agencies are seemingly working around the clock to find a solution, there are a number of technological advancements, driven by AI, that are paving the way for how we can fight the war on addiction.

What is AI, and How Can It Help With Drug Abuse?

As technology changes, we hear a lot about AI and all the wonderful, or scary things it can do.  Most people see it as this incredibly detailed, and complex, technology that is better left for the scientists in a lab somewhere.

The truth is, AI is not that complex at all.  We are a technology driven society, and what that means is that businesses and computers have access to a vast amount of human user data.  Every time we click a button on the computer, use a GPS, send a text message, or purchase something on Amazon, our data is being captured on the back end in a database somewhere.

That data can now be accessed and plugged into algorithms and machine learning models.  All this means is that a computer is doing an analysis on data it has collected, and then making assumptions and decisions based off that data.  There is a limit to the amount of data a human can process and analyze in a timely fashion. With AI, we let a computer do all the hard work, and then we can make the important decisions, based on the outputs.

So What Kind of Data Exists to Help with Addiction?

Companies like Hc1.com are using medical data to help identify patterns in prescriptions written in any one area, then tying them back to incidents of misuse and abuse.  The company has built dashboards which are using AI to analyze huge data sets including 51 million individuals, and 5 billion diagnostic tests, spanning across all 50 states in the US.  Humans just wouldn’t be able to process this much data and make meaningful or timely decisions on it. With the help of AI, we can hopefully see the deadly trends emerging and work to put a stop to them before they get worse.

AI doesn’t just help us prevent outbreaks, it can also assist people who are currently in active addiction, get better.  TriggrHealth  is a company that allows people in recovery to opt in to sharing data with them.  Through this data, Triggr tracks the behaviors of recovering addicts, and tries to predict if they are participating in any high risk behaviors that may lead to relapse.  Triggr then sends text messages and warnings as a reminder to users, before they relapse.

 AI has helped both researchers identify dangerous trends in opioid distribution, in addition to tracking people in active addiction and recovery to help prevent a relapse. But, can we use AI to predict if someone is at risk for addiction, before they use?  Yan Liu, of the USC School of Engineering thinks so.  Liu and her researchers conducted one of the most comprehensive studies out there, by taking over 100,000 individuals’ medical histories, and combing their data to develop trends and models to identify people who are at a higher risk for addiction.

AI Provides Hope to Many Suffering from Opioid Addiction

AI is providing solutions for those suffering from addiction that we never thought would be possible.  As technology adapts and advances, we should start to see a new line of innovations, streamlined at helping those that can not help themselves.   What this means for the opioid crisis, is that we should start getting the much needed help from the AI work horses, and be able to prevent opioid epidemics before they spread throughout communities.  Addicts in recovery can’t and do not want to be under 24/7 surveillance. With advances in AI technology, they can now have a little AI accountability buddy in their pocket. Most importantly, AI is working to take the guessing game out of who may become an addict.  Just imagine if we could see the writing on the walls, and maybe try to predict our own futures, so we don’t fall victim to this deadly disease.