Technology for Alcohol Abuse

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Would you pay for someone to keep you sober? What about if the choice was jail or monitoring? This is in play already and coming to a treatment center near you.

SCRAMx is an existing solution that combines remote monitoring for location (used for house arrest) with continuous testing to see if the wearer has alcohol in their system. The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor straps on an ankle and tests what is called “insensate” perspiration. This just means it checks sweat – the small amount of fluid we excrete through the skin without noticing it. They upgraded to the “x” by adding both functions, tracking and testing, into one unit.

In a typical story (out of Twin Falls, Idaho), one user referred to SCRAMx as “virtual jail,” but also credited the unit with helping him maintain sobriety after many struggles. Tim Hagins got one as part of his probation for a DUI accident. The unit not only tests for alcohol in his system, but the GPS notices if he goes into an establishment that sells alcohol – like a bar or restaurant.

It turns out that alcohol monitoring has a role as a treatment device, instead of just for court-ordered supervision. It has two handy attributes. The first is 24/7, always on. This means that it’s there, watching, when that moment of weakness strikes. And alcoholics know it’s there. The second is just as important. Since it can either keep a stored memory or broadcast information, it can be used to reassure employers or significant others that someone is keeping to their promises and remaining sober.

The second is as much of an incentive as the former. How does an alcoholic prove they are abstaining? Blood or urine tests only show the current situation – remote monitoring gives a real-time, continuous status. Systems like this can help build trust that has been damaged.

The incentives are already in place and the technology is here. The question now is what is enough motivation to get alcoholics to use these? Pressure from employers, the courts, and even insurance companies might be enough to tip the balance in the right direction.

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