Cell phones may be able to battle addiction, relapses

First, let me thank you for taking a moment to read this. My objective in writing this is to initiate development of a tool to help our family and friends. The tool would be:

The tragedies of relapse are the loss of life, health, job, education progress and family. The impact of relapse is a time-based phenomenon. The longer the relapse, the more toxic it is to one’s health outlook. Relapse is the thing that keeps an individual in a reset mode that can ruin forward progress. Relapse is the destructive outlook for an individual who has relapsed before. Relapse can absorb a life and its progress.

Addiction in America is a national tragedy. Millions of people are addicted to drugs and alcohol in the United States. Current mental health doctors/professionals are generally ineffective in permanently preventing relapse for addicts. Drug and alcohol abuse is a disease that affects the addict and the addict’s family and loved ones. Organizations like NA and AA promote constant treatment thru meetings, steps and halfway living communities. It is generally accepted that once you are an addict/alcoholic, you will always be an addict/alcoholic. The opioid epidemic is indirectly funding a huge drug/alcohol treatment industry.

Millions of parents would agree that their kids are somewhat addicted to cell phone use. Millions of parents pay for their kids cell phone contracts. Cell phones have revolutionized digital interaction within the masses. Cell phones have immense processing capability and data access. A cell phone running applications is an accepted mode to interact with a user. Cell phones can be used as a sensory device to monitor user keystroke speed and accuracy, time and duration of use, contact information and frequency of contact. Cell phones can detect a phone’s location and log those location.

Drug and alcohol relapse behavior is highly destructive. Relapse is not a binge or a party weekend, it is often a forced restart from ground zero and rock bottom. Relapse episodes can result in job loss, housing loss and loss of trust. Relapse can result in felony records. Relapse episodes can cause academic failures, lost credits and lost family treasure for education. Relapse episodes can result in brain damage and death. Relapse episodes usually happen more than once.

A young person, through life’s experiences, discovers their future direction to some degree. This direction will expose an individual to relationships, school, working and events necessary to create one’s own security and career. A young adult needs to put forth effort to grow. This effort requires long term work and experience to yield the progress one needs to become secure. With relapse, this long term work and experience is interrupted/haulted. The journey to one’s peace of mind and a good life/career cannot be had with repeated relapse.

Relapse: The re-destruction of personal gain

The first drug crisis for an individual initiates the process leading to probable relapse. The first crisis may result in failing out of school, losing a job or collapse of a marriage. The first crisis may result in a DUI and/ incarceration/felony. The first crisis may result in a translation from the world of a partying young adult to a world of treatment centers/hospitals/halfway houses and meetings. The first drug crisis launches the stigma and potential for relapse. The individual’s first drug/alcohol crisis lays the groundwork for relapse. A felony conviction for drugs virtually eliminates your ability to get a “regular” job for years.

The state of the art of cell phone technology allows a phone to be a tool and a sensor. CPU computational power has increased by several orders of magnitude over the last decade. Cell phone technology is intimate with the user. A cell phone can sense user’s button pushes, carriage returns and frequency of use. A cell phone tracks recent calls and even track its user’s coordinates. Clever programmers and computer engineers are able to utilize heuristics analysis of cell phones to predict future outcomes. Key board entry timings, dynamics and intervals would have patterns unique to the user when sober, when hunting for a fix, and when using. We can use engineering to decode these patterns and use them to trigger an alarm/call for help.

Computer/phone/application companies are discovering the latest revelations in man-machine interfaces. These technical professionals continually change the face of society with ever more powerful cell phones. These companies have HUGE programming horsepower and research and development budgets. They control the phones, the device of the masses. These companies have the ability to create an application to save millions of kids and young adults in the United States. This letter is an effort to make the technology giants aware of their opportunity to create a “caring” interface for the lost victims of addiction and relapse.

Engineering development in America has evolved dramatically with the onset of ever-faster processing. Today, we instant message at meetings, share our screens and give control and video chat to cohorts across the country. Data transfers are fast and getting faster. Computer-aided modeling is commonly used as a tool in the design of every and anything with ever improving correlation with physical reality. The design protocols/integrated program plans developed over years of design creation can yield a tool for good. This is the state of the art for engineering and it should be used for the treatment of our addicted youth.

Relapse: Misery loves company

When relapse happens, the slide toward darkness begins. The slide toward the restart and rock-bottom. The calls go out to family, friends, bosses, sponsors, parents and the circle of support. The news is always bad, a loved one has ingested the cause of an addict’s life. The crushing news that hurts all receiving the call. The news that the addict is sick and may/will have to restart again. The calls are always bad but they can have degrees of darkness. The relapse can be momentary or long enough to force a total restart of one’s life.

The longer the duration of the relapse the worse the damage. A short relapse results in no lost job, no lost academic credits, no lost loves, friends and health. The long relapse results in a firing, missed classes, failed courses and a renewed dependence on charity. The long relapse results in lost loves, lost health, and perhaps a restart from ground zero. The long relapse results in years of mandated halfway house stints and drug tests before a return to security.

After a couple of relapses the addict begins to anticipate the event that returns them to the place they lived before-the halfway house, the recovering addict’s community. The addict’s community where relapse is the norm. The addict’s community funded by parents and insurance companies. The community of men and women stuck in low paying jobs, smoking cigarettes, sharing rooms and sad stories of restarts.

Signs of imminent relapse can include:

“Late night phone activity-phone and texting after midnight. Nothing good ever happens late at night.

“No phone activity in the morning – indication of sleeping all morning.

“Phoning/texting a dealer – single repeated phone call outside the circle of support.

“Missing work/school – calling in sick.

“Travel to bad areas or areas not on your normal route … to find the fix.

“Cash withdrawals late at night.

“Not calling or texting sponsors, parents, loved ones.

“Not replying to calls or texts from sponsors, parents, loved ones.

“Travel late at night.”

“Travel to an area multiple times repeatedly … waiting for a drug dealer to come home.

“Crying … not part of normal/content behavior.

It is time for large phone/website/software companies to use their technical horsepower to develop a tool to reduce the frequency and duration of relapse. It can be an application that it loaded onto a phone. It is ordered by the owner of the phone contract. The owner, in this case is the parent supplying a phone to their addicts. It is safety software that monitors the user’s interface to the phone. The application will contact the contract owner if it is removed or hacked by the user who may be trying to hide his/her behaviors. The deal for the addict is that the use of the phone is contingent on the user having this application running on the phone. A relapsing addict usually cannot afford a phone but they are still addicted to having one, like most of us are. The addict will accept the phone with the safety software rather than not having a phone.

This phone, this common device used by all young people in society, can now become the tool that helps them stay safe when they cannot control the addiction. This tool can intervene by notifying immediate responders to minimize the relapse.

I write this letter as a parent and engineer. Please reprint this letter to give this idea a chance. We have the technology today to develop and implement a tool to help save our children. We need to do this. I am not looking for a job or direct personal gain from this letter. Please see if you, as the reader, can discuss this idea with your colleagues and see if we can develop some traction. PRELAPSE is a suggested name for the tool/application. I am sending this letter out to local papers and technology leaders.

Andrew Cannon is a resident of Amherst.