Can Your Smartphone Tell When You’re Drunk And Provide You With Alternative Solutions? Also, Does Wearable Alcohol Detection Technology Work?


It isn’t always easy to know when you’ve had one alcoholic drink too many, but your smartphone may be able to help.

By measuring changes in the way you walk. Having access to real-time data about intoxication, your location and the amount of time you’ve spent at that location could help people reduce their alcohol intake, prevent drink driving and even alert a sponsor for those receiving treatment for alcohol abuse & addiction. Researchers associated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have said.

Researcher and A&E Doctor Brian Suffoletto studied 22 adults between the ages of 21 and 43, and gave volunteers a vodka drink with enough alcohol to produce a breath concentration of 90 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milligrams of blood. In the UK, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath based on blood alcohol concentration per grams of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.

Participants had an hour to finish the alcohol and then had their breath alcohol concentration analysed hourly over seven hours as they performed a walking task, walking in a straight line for 10 steps, before turning around and walking back 10 steps. Researchers secured a smartphone to the participants’ lower back with an elastic belt. Using an app to record accelerometer data, the phones then measured acceleration, side-to-side, up-down and forward and backward motions while participants walked. Some 90% of the time, researchers were able to use changes in gait detected by the phone sensors and the app to identify when a person’s blood alcohol limit put them over the UK governments recommended alcohol limits & when they were “theoretically intoxicated (drunk). “This controlled lab study shows that our phones can be useful to identify ‘signatures’ of functional impairments related to alcohol,” Suffoletto, who was with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine when the research was conducted, is now with Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said in a statement.

“We have powerful sensors we carry around with us wherever we go,” Suffoletto said. “We need to learn how to use them to best serve public health.”I lost a close friend to a drink driving crash” Suffoletto added. “And as an A&E Doctor, I have taken care of scores of adults with injuries related to acute alcohol intoxication. Because of this, I have dedicated the past 10 years to testing digital interventions to prevent deaths and injury related to excessive alcohol consumption.” Alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, reduces brain function and impairs thinking, muscle coordination and reasoning which can affect a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely and reduce their perception of risky activities that they may undertake while drunk. An average of 666 people were killed in drink driving related accidents in Great Britain each year. An average of 3,551 people were seriously injured in drink driving related accidents in Great Britain each year.

Researchers say that the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, is a “proof-of-concept study” that “provides a foundation for future research on using smartphones to remotely detect alcohol-related impairments.” The team are planning further research with participants carrying phones in their hands and pockets with results still to come.


Where Else Could This Type Of Technology Take Us?

Other options that this type of technology may employ for us:

  • Reminding us how much alcohol we have consumed over a given period such as being in a bar
  • May tell the pub, bar or location that you have an issue with alcohol and to only serve you non-alcoholic drinks discreetly
  • May contact your sponsor (if you have one) that you are intending to drink/have drunk alcohol
  • Could link with your car and immobilise your car so that you cannot drive and will call you a taxi, alert a certain person to collect you or follow another type of preventative action
  • Track the amount you have drunk over a given period and recommend whether you should see your GP or a drug and alcohol service regarding your drinking as you may not truly appreciate the gravity of your drinking and the damage it is causing and whether you are developing addictive signs & symptoms
  • If you were to become injured or unwell due to your alcohol consumption, tell attending paramedics or police officers the amount of alcohol you have drunk as well as any important health information they may need to know if you are unable to tell them yourself
  • Inform your GP or drug and alcohol service about the amount you have drunk over a given period to effectively provide relevant treatments and therapies for their addiction

This technology is still being trialed and further development is required. However, it does give us a good indication about how addicts they interact with the world in the future and also change the way treatments and therapies are used. We already use various forms of technology in our lives and this is only going to increase as new technology, programs, treatments and therapies grow to include technology to benefit those with addictions to substances.


Ankle Alcohol Monitoring

SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®) is an innovative way of monitoring alcohol consumption. Its success at enforcing sobriety and helping to change behaviours in vulnerable and alcohol-dependent adults, has seen its use rise steeply. So how does this alcohol tag actually work?

The bracelet is worn on the ankle and tests for the presence of alcohol in perspiration every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As such, it can detect the drinking of alcohol in real-time. The results are automatically gathered and uploaded without the wearer having to do anything. These results then highlight the frequency and pattern of alcohol consumption. The technology is so advanced it can differentiate between very low alcohol consumption (such as 1–2 units) and environmental sources. For example, a visit to premises serving alcohol or spillages of alcohol on the skin can be distinguished from actual ingestion. Spilling any product containing alcohol (such as hairspray or perfume) would create a rapid spike in the results, which would be much faster than the body would ever consume alcohol. As an added support measure, an analysis is performed to ensure that any confirmed event is indeed consumed alcohol.

Anti-tamper technology

The SCRAM CAM® bracelet is waterproof and tamper-resistant. Temperature sensors and an infrared sensor measure the reflective quality of the skin to ensure the bracelet is in place. These sensors also ensure that nothing has been placed between the skin and the bracelet in an attempt to obstruct the alcohol testing. Other strap and battery sensors confirm the bracelet is in place and on the proper subject. The bracelet also continuously conducts diagnostic tests to ensure the unit is functioning properly.

The bracelets need to be fitted by professionally trained staff. Alpha Biolabs has ten SCRAM CAM® alcohol-detection centres across the UK to fit the bracelets, monitor the results and provide reports after an agreed time period.

Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

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