HRV Measured via wearables could help with AUD (Alcohol use disorder) related problems

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Smartwatches and rings have come a long way from their inception. Most smartwatches and other wearables today measure heart rate variability (HRV). Can HRV measured via today’s wearables help with problems related to alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder and acute alcohol intoxication are major contributors of intimate partner violence (IPV). According to studies, one-third of US adults experience IPV during their lifetimes. Recent data also suggest that IPV negatively impacts AUD treatment and increases the risk of relapse.

Less than 10% of people with past-year alcohol use disorder receive any treatment, according to NIH.

Although existing behavioral treatments targeting AUD and IPV are effective, efficacy is commonly limited by high dropout rates, poor working alliances, and low readiness to change.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina are collaborating with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to develop dynamic treatment options which can successfully reduce AUD and IPV concurrently.

Mitigating maladaptive physiological reactivity in the form of respiratory sinus arrhythmia measure of heart rate variability (HRV) is one promising pathway to achieve this goal.

Related reading:

HRV is an autonomic biomarker of arousal relevant to AUD pathophysiology, alcohol consumption, and treatment outcomes. HRV is also an emerging mechanism underlying alcohol-facilitated IPV.

Research has shown reduced heart rate variability in chronic alcohol abuse. Typically, alcoholic subjects have a faster heart rate and lower HRV.

Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) have been found to be associated with elevated cardiovascular risk. The autonomic nervous system is considered to play a role in this association. Heart rate variability (HRV) has been employed to measure parasympathetic activity in AUDs patients in some studies 

This data suggests that remote, self-administered biofeedback interventions hold promise as a discreet, accessible, and low-cost standalone or adjunct treatment option for AUD patients with high-risk behaviors such as IPV.

The primary objective of the proposed project is to use wearable technology to develop proof-of-concept of HRV as a biomarker of alcohol-facilitated IPV in naturalistic settings. The secondary objective is to examine the preliminary usability, feasibility, and acceptability of a remote, self-administered HRV-B intervention.Garmin watch heart rate tracking

Since the overarching objective of this initiative is to use wearable technology to develop biomarker-driven interventions for alcohol-facilitated intimate partner violence, the project will require participants to wear Garmin Smartwatch. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) will be measured by Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia taken using a Garmin smartwatch.

This novel initiative was launched this month at the Medical University of South Carolina and will monitor 100 participants. 

It is also important to point out that new silicon launched by the likes of Rockley Photonics can assist with measuring alcohol levels in a non-invasive fashion. Specifically, the VitalSpex Pro platform can measure blood alcohol levels via advanced spectrometry.

Given the advances in wearable technology today, it is very much feasible that there could be digital treatments in the near future that will help with some of the issues pertaining to alcohol use disorder.

Reference: Wearable Technology and Alcohol Facilitated Intimate partner violence

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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