The nation’s opioid epidemic is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. A group of students from Michigan’s Carnegie Mellon University hopes to curb that trend with a wearable device that alerts the wearer when overdose is imminent, allowing enough time to administer the life-saving opioid reversal agent, naloxone.
There’s no question the opioid crisis is crippling the nation. More than 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day, and that number continues to creep higher as more people become dependent on the highly addictive painkillers. Measures have been made to tackle the prescribing and misuse of opioids, and medications have been approved to help people discontinue use. The opioid antidote naloxone can save someone from dying of opioid overdose, but only if the medication can be administered when an overdose is occurring.
The HopeBand offers … hope. It emits an alarm and sends a warning text message that gives the wearer’s location when it detects the wearer’s blood oxygen level is too low. This is done through pulse oximetry sensors that work by shining LED light through the skin. After 10 seconds, if blood oxygen levels don’t return to normal levels, the alarm sounds and the warning text is sent.
“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact (someone) for help and make sure you get help,” says Rashmi Kalkunte, a software engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”
The device has not yet been tested in real-world settings, but preliminary testing shows promise. Researchers plan to distribute the device free-of-charge to opioid users through the needle exchange program and eventually offer the HopeBand for sale to the general public for around $16 to $20.