Artificial intelligence is one field of computer science that continues to grow and transcend what technology engineers thought could be achieved by machine learning. Although AI is still a relatively new field that continues to make advancements regularly, the technology has found a home in several industries, including business and healthcare. Mental health professionals have been using AI for years to help patients with mental illness get the advice and support they need.
This is especially relevant today, in the face of rising levels of meth addiction. This rise is directly related to a much more frequently discussed issue in regards to the public health landscape: the opioid epidemic. The latter has led to 11.4 million people misusing prescription opioids and over 130 people dying every day from overdoses. Unfortunately, opioid use also increases meth use. Opioids can serve as a gateway drug: Over a third of all people using opioids also reported using methamphetamine. While the discussion of the opioid epidemic has entered public discourse, the problems of meth addiction are often neglected.
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Methamphetamine addiction, like most other addictions, has been the source of ample scientific study by various health organizations. Using inferences from this data, along with information about the addict, apps are capable of predicting the risk of relapse and sending support. Being able to program an app with algorithms that can help it predict a person’s response to external stimuli seems advanced beyond our years. However, with the role big data is playing in using data to its utmost potential, the new uses for AI aren’t too surprising.
Methamphetamine Addiction Obstacles
Addiction is always an extremely difficult form of abuse to overcome, whether it is alcohol abuse or the abuse of another substance. However, trying to recover from heroin or methamphetamine addiction is a whole other world of pain. Long-term meth abuse leads to damage of the dopamine receptors in the brain, which causes addicts to be unable to feel pleasure, a condition known as anhedonia. Anhedonia makes it difficult for recovering addicts to feel stable, grounded, or hopeful, which can lead to relapse.
Addicts going through withdrawal often feel extremely ill, usually experiencing fever, sweats, nausea, and vomiting. Health professionals know exactly what a person in recovery experiences throughout the five stages of substance abuse recovery, and this knowledge is being used to offer recovering addicts the help they need to prevent relapse. By analyzing a person’s personality and feelings, the technology is able to predict relapse through a person’s words and behavior, and it could either send mindfulness exercises or alert a close friend to offer support.
According to the 2017 Global Drug Survey, methamphetamine is more dangerous than any other drug. On average, 4.8 percent of users required emergency medical attention after use. In the U.S., the percentage of users who seek medical attention is even higher, ranging from 6.1 to 8.3 percent. By deterring the possibility of relapse, AI could save thousands of recovering addicts from an emergency trip to the hospital, as well as the resulting medical debt.
How AI Is Helping
People suffering from meth addiction are eager to find alternatives to the standard 12-step recovery model that is practiced by those in Alcoholics Anonymous groups. Common criticisms of this recovery model are its religious nature, as well as what can seem like the glorification of drug use through the sharing of drug-use stories. For addicts in recovery, it’s important that their treatment plan is specific to their personality and needs because recovery is different for each person.
An app called Addicaid, created by recovering addict Sam Frons, explores the way AI can help individuals struggling with addiction by combining artificial intelligence with clinical research to predict when a person may be at risk for a relapse. The app also offers treatment suggestions, such as phone numbers for treatment lines and centers, and cognitive behavioral therapy options that can help curb the urge to relapse. These suggestions vary based on the information that the app has on the individual, which makes it more effective and personalized.
This data-driven approach to recovery uses machine learning, adaptive AI, and health research to specify treatment options based on the strategies that work for each person. These apps also offer to connect recovering addicts in order to help each other not feel so alone and hopeless by communicating with others that are going through similar struggles. Although the use of AI in the treatment of substance abuse is still relatively new, people are hopeful that it will have a positive impact.
AI helps use big data in practical applications by using machine learning to bridge the gap between data analytics and actually applying inferences from the stores of valuable information we create in our day-to-day lives. However, because we don’t have the capacity to think about everything all at once, analytics can help keep track of the important things for us.
Drug abuse affects millions of people each year — meth alone killed nearly 6,000 people in the United States in 2015. By using technology to help hold recovering addicts accountable, data experts, counselors, and app inventors hope to see more cases where apps like Addicaid help people avoid relapses. Meth is a dangerous drug, with severe health consequences and behavioral changes that pose a danger to the addict and the people around them. AI can use data to help these individuals adjust to recovery and leave it in the past.