Image credit – Mark Stone/University of Washington


Sometimes when someone overdoses on a drug, their lives can be saved if they are given treatment in time, such as being administered naloxone. However if there is no one to call for help, then we guess there’s really not much that can be done, right? However that’s something that researchers at the University of Washington are hoping to address.

The researchers have developed an app dubbed “Second Chance” that can detect the breathing of the user, and when it detects that the person suddenly starts breathing slower or stops breathing entirely, it will call for help. The app is capable of working from up to 3 feet away and according to the initial tests, it seems that it is about 90% accurate.

According to one of the authors of the study, Shyam Gollakota, “The idea is that people can use the app during opioid use so that if they overdose, the phone can potentially connect them to a friend or emergency services to provide naloxone. Here we show that we have created an algorithm for a smartphone that is capable of detecting overdoses by monitoring how someone’s breathing changes before and after opioid use.”

Right now in its current state, the app is mostly used as a monitoring tool. However the researchers are hoping to expand on its capabilities to make it more interactive, where upon detection of a possible overdose, it will require the user to interact with the phone to make sure they’re OK, if not a call for help will be made.

Dr. Jacob Sunshine, another one of the study’s authors says, “We’re experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of deaths from opioid use, and it’s unfortunate because these overdoses are completely reversible phenomena if they’re detected in time. The goal of this project is to try to connect people who are often experiencing overdoses alone to known therapies that can save their lives. We hope that by keeping people safer, they can eventually access long-term treatment.”

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