We are committed to contributing $1 million to Addiction-Related Technologies over the next 5 years. The Concept Phase of the Addiction Relapse Technology Challenge is the first of a series of prizes lined up to transform the way we address and treat addiction worldwide. Join us to make a breakthrough. Follow this Challenge to continue to see updates about our progress.
Addiction does more than destroy individual lives—it destroys communities, friendships, and families as well. In the United States, addiction—in particular, opiate addiction—is growing at an alarming rate and with devastating effects (see HBO’s Documentary Heroin: Cape Cod, U.S.A. to understand just how real the problem is). The most dangerous element of addiction, and the biggest obstacle in preventing addicts from getting clean, is a relapse event.
While the public health system recognizes that opiate addiction and relapse are ubiquitous problems all over the world and that primary treatment and prevention are critical, it remains a fact that relapse is endemic among those who successfully complete treatment; it is also recurrent with successive rounds of treatment.
At the same time there is a scientific and market revolution in biosensors, embedded technology, wearables, and the use of neuroscience-based gaming. Our goal is to harness this innovation to prevent relapse.
The goal of this challenge is to develop technology capable of identifying the point of relapse—the neurological and biological signals (the “craving”) that manifest before the outward signals (solicitation, purchase, and use). By developing technology capable of highlighting the warning signs of relapse, we can better manage and mitigate addiction.
What we want is to help people get off the track before they get hit by the train. We want a technology that acts like a train whistle—a signal that says relapse is just around the corner, take action NOW!
Addiction treatment lacks funding, research, available data, and—most importantly—objectivity.
Society has a nasty reputation of putting the “blame” on the addict instead of the underlying brain chemistry causing the addiction. As a result, what should be treated as a disease gets undeservingly labeled as a conscious choice.
No addict wants to be an addict—they literally can’t help it.
Drugs (from alcohol and nicotine to heroin and cocaine) alter the chemistry of the brain. That chemical alteration makes addicts physically dependent upon the drugs they’re taking. It’s this chemical dependency that’s responsible for pushing addicts away from treatment and into relapse.
Additionally, the effective treatments that do exist are cumbersome, short-term and overly generalized, when they need to be simple, sustainable and specialized to the individual to have permanent efficacy.
Prisons, courtrooms, and short-term hospital beds are not the conduits through which addicts get clean—they are the conduits through which addicts slip into relapse.
We are committed to battling the current problems of addiction by facilitating the development of technology that focuses on relapse prevention. Pioneered by the work of Dr. G. Alan Marlatt, relapse prevention recognizes that relapsing is a process, a process that is driven by both internal and external imbalances.
By developing a technology that can classify and interrupt the process of relapse before physical indicators have manifested, physicians, friends, and family members can stop relapses as soon as (or even before) they start.
This relapse prevention technology will:
The winning solution will both effectively and objectively identify the neurological and biological triggers for relapse, thereby empowering the addict to remain in control of his or her own personal journey in recovery. In doing so, relapse can be managed at its earliest stage, before obvious physical signs have been fully expressed, creating an "early warning system" of sorts.
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