Naloxone is a lifesaver drug that reverses opioid overdose. However, it has to be administered quickly to be able to block the effects of opioids. Some people would carry naloxone injections or packaged nasal spray with them, but researchers from the University of Washington have found an easier and faster way to administer naloxone.

According to the institution's press release via EurekAlert!, researchers are working on a new wearable device like insulin shots that detect opioid overdose and quickly inject naloxone to the skin to reverse the event. The device uses accelerometers and a microprocessor to monitor the body's movement and rate of respiration constantly.

 Opioid Overdose Treatment: Wearable Device Works Like Insulin Shots to Inject Naloxone in a Timely Manner
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
An emergency opioid overdose kit, containing a single dose of naloxone, needle, and syringe.

Opioid Overdose Become Worse During the Pandemic

Opioid overdose is the leading cause of death in some places, such as British Columbia, and has increased during the pandemic, CTV News reported. Around 1,500 people died of illicit drug overdose from January until September of 2021 in the province, which is 24% higher than last year.

Moreover, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recorded fatal overdoses that led to the deaths of 100,300 Americans from May 2020 to April 2021. Doctors remind the public that untreated drug overdose from non-medical opioids can result in respiratory failure, heart attacks, and even death.

University of Washington (UW) doctoral student Justin Chan said in the press release that opioid overdose is worse than ever during the pandemic and continued to be a significant public health issue. Due to that, they created algorithms that will guide the wearable to detect and reverse the event.

ALSO READ: Opioid Overdose: What is Narcan or Naloxone and How Can It Help With Heroin Overdosage?

How Does the Wearable Device Works?

Researchers in New Atlas said they trained the overdose detection algorithm by testing it on 25 people with opioid-use disorder during visits to a supervised injection facility in Vancouver, Canada. They also asked 20 healthy individuals to hold their breath to simulate an opioid-induced respiratory failure, to which the device responded by injecting them with naloxone.

That means the device could detect sustained lack of movement and combine breathing patterns known to precede opioid overdose-related to respiratory failure. It automatically released its retractable needle to inject naloxone from a built-in reservoir that will restore normal respiration.

Additionally, the data on the respiratory patterns o the user can be transmitted via Bluetooth to alert the patient or a caregiver of their opioid overdose.

As of now, the team is still working on a prototype of the wearable device. Researchers noted that its system is designed based on previously existing work added with a unique design evaluated on real-world participants at risk of opioid overdose. They are looking forward to making these devices widely available, starting with getting approval from the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

They described in full the wearable devices in their study, titled "Closed-Loop Wearable Naloxone Injector System," published in the journal Scientific Reports.

RELATED ARTICLE: Epidemic Within A Pandemic: Opioid Overdose Rate In Ohio Increases Amid COVID-19, The Third Highest Cause Of Death In The State


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