While there have been many advances in the treatment of addiction, relapse remains a common problem. (1,2) Research indicates that 25 to 50% of people who have undergone addiction treatment moved back and forth between periods of abstinence and heavy drinking or drug use. (3,4) Not surprisingly, rates of relapse increase consistently as more time passes since treatment.
Although most field experts consider addiction to be a chronic disease, there are often limited provisions for clients who have completed treatment to manage their addictive disorders through ongoing monitoring or "checkups," which are seen more commonly with other chronic disorders. (5) Recent studies indicate that the key to preventing addiction relapse often lies in experiences and events in the hours and even minutes leading up to the onset of an episode of returning to substance use. (6) Some of the most common reasons for first relapses are negative emotions, social pressure, and cravings to use a substance. (7) One explanation for these relationships is that people return to substance use as a way to escape from distress or as a means of coping with stress and negative emotions. (8)
Importantly, each of these stressors that contribute toward relapse reveals itself in physiologic forms within the body--all of which can be detected via wearable biomonitoring technology available on the market today.
"We know that stress is the most accurate predictor of relapse, and relapse is often preceded by stressful episodes characterized by strong negative moods," says Timothy Baker, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "This suggests that autonomic nervous or somatic system activity associated with stress may be used to detect stressful episodes and make people aware of their state of mind. One reason this is important is that laboratory research shows that individuals may actually be unaware of when they are becoming stressed or experiencing negative moods, so they don't always know to seek out the help they may need to maintain a successful recovery program."
Our research team at the University of Wisconsin has begun testing the potential of how body monitoring instruments …