Experimental app might spot drug overdoses in time to help

This image from video provided by the University of Washington in January 2019 shows a demonstration of the smartphone app developed by Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, Shyamnath Gollakota and Jacob E. Sunshine that uses sound waves to measure breathing. In first-step testing reported Wednesday, Jan. 9 the device detected early breathing problems in some people who’d just injected illegal drugs. (Mark Stone/University of Washington via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Too often people die of an opioid overdose because no one's around to notice they're in trouble. Now scientists are creating a smartphone app that beams sound waves to measure breathing — and summon help if it stops.

The app is still experimental. But in first-step testing, University of Washington researchers found the software can detect breathing problems in the critical minutes after people injected illegal drugs.

It uses sonar, beaming sound waves and analyzing how they bounce to measure the chest rising and falling.

But it doesn't work inside a pocket, raising the question of whether drug users would pull out a phone to use such a gadget.

The research was reported Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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