Biometrics and Addiction Relapse Prevention
We offer a unique, cutting edge and intensive transition plan to our clients for two months after they leave our on-campus program. And, we are excited to include in that plan a pioneering use of technology that gets to the heart of relapse dynamics, allowing quick and effective prevention. We do that with the Oura Ring, which is wearable technology, much like the popular Fitbit that helps us meet fitness goals. Like that device, the Oura Ring gives valuable real-time feedback. Instead of how many more steps we need to meet our daily exercise goal however, the Oura Ring monitors the bio-markers, or measurable signals within the body and brain, that are important in addiction relapse prevention. The biometric data is synthesized with emotional data that are entered via smart phone daily during residential treatment. The system captures up to the minute bio-emotional data that can be used to predict relapse and give you time to take action to stop it.
We’ve long known that the earlier we catch a relapse process in any illness, the greater our chances of successfully intervening are. However, historically, we’ve had to work hard to self-monitor, reflect, analyze and process to get and stay on top of relapse prevention. It’s an approach that is time-consuming, labor intensive and often just a series of best guesses. We’ve had to try to manage sobriety with cumbersome tactics, asking ourselves things like Why am I suddenly so emotional… or unable to think a pleasant or positive thought? to monitor detrimental processes that may lead us back to substance.
Even with conscientious effort, at best we’ve been left to hope we’re doing the right things. At worst, we’ve developed a terrifying mythology around relapse—believing it is a mysterious process that can l rear its head no matter how well we are doing despite thorough efforts to prevent it. This mythology has left many of us hopeless, feeling sustained sobriety really depends upon the luck of the draw.
The Oura Ring doesn’t rely on hindsight after the emotional overwhelm happens, cravings have beset us, or gloom and doom thinking has secured a powerful grip. We don’t have to process and analyze what’s ‘been going on with us’ the last few days. We can check that as it happens in our biology.
The Oura Ring shows us relapse warning signs--bio-markers of the earliest relapse process, in real time, before we can perceive them consciously. We don’t have to wait for them to escalate to reach our awareness. This wearable technology tells us the biological markers of such key risk factors as emotional triggering and stress reactions as they begin, not after they have gained strength and momentum.
The Oura Ring works around our lack of basic, deep level biology awareness. We are not built to have knowledge of all biological processes that keep us alive and well. Biology does its work without our permission or supervision… cells tend to osmosis… neurons fire… neurotransmitters flow or don’t... stress hormones dump or don’t...
Similarly, the early bio-markers of a relapse process are not on our conscious radar screens. They aren’t ‘readable’ with ordinary body awareness or psychological self-knowledge—at least not until they have amped up to recognizable discomfort or distress. By the time recognizable problems occur, we’ve been in distress far longer than we should, and at risk far more than is safe.
You might liken the Oura Ring’s benefit to that of monitoring blood pressure. If there have been problems before, we might monitor blood pressure regularly to prevent an acute health crisis in the future. Monitoring allows us to intervene before we are in undeniable, readily apparent distress. Oura Ring technology is similar. It reads significant indicators of addiction relapse early and reports them early, before they can register in conscious discomfort, and before they escalate to acute problems that are difficult to contain.
Essentially, the Oura Ring can be an early warning system. And consequently, it flings open a window of opportunity to prevent return to substance use. Its data allows us to make easy changes and return to a healthy balance before the relapse process takes hold. The significance of this is profound. Coupled with the program we have devised around this technology we had a powerful transition plan unlike any ever used in addiction treatment before.
Our continuing care transition plan begins inside the supportive, embracing environment of a therapeutic program, but ultimately and critically, it must continue once one leaves this safe environment. The science and technology surrounding the use of an Oura Ring to transition to a sustainable recovery at home make a profound impact in our work—not simply in the lives of our clients, but across the field of addiction treatment.