Preventing Opioid Addiction Through Prediction

preventing-opioid-addictionResearchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have found that computer mapping could be a powerful tool in preventing opioid addiction before it even begins. USC Viterbi researchers in the interdisciplinary USC Machine Learning Center used computer mapping to study opioid addiction, adverse effects and patient profiles.

By programming computer-learning models, similar to iPhone X facial recognition software and self-driving cars, researchers filtered through patient medical history and identified patterns that could predict opioid dependency and addiction.

These patterns included a patient’s prescription history and whether they had been diagnosed with other disorders that could signify a heightened risk of developing an addiction, such as non-opioid substance abuse, recreational drug use, alcohol use disorder, or anxiety disorders.

The models used these traits to classify all patients who had been previously prescribed opioid medication into three groups: short-term users, long-term users and opioid-dependent users. Researchers collaborated with the Mayo Health Clinic and used a sample of 102,166 patient health records provided by the Rochester Epidemiology Project.

According to Yan Liu, a big data expert and associate professor of computer science who heads the Machine Learning Center, this is one of the largest datasets ever used for this type of research, which yielded extremely accurate data. 79% of patients were short-term opioid users, and 21% were long-term users. 3.47% were classified as opioid-dependent, a considerable increase from the 0.7% who were diagnosed as opioid-dependent before the study.

The study achieved its goal, Liu said, which was to determine that computer-learning models are indeed powerful tools that have significant potential in combating opioid addiction. This research could ultimately help predict a patient’s susceptibility to developing an addiction to opioid painkillers before their physician even writes a prescription. By being able to identify key indicators from the outset, a physician could prescribe alternatives for pain management, preventing a patient’s exposure to opioids entirely.

Now, it’s a matter of fine-tuning these models so physicians can actually implement them. These findings hold a lot of promise in preventing opioid addiction, but as the opioid epidemic continues to ravage the country, the demand for safe, non-addictive alternatives isn’t going away.

That’s why BRC Recovery offers men and women the opportunity to recover from opioid addiction through our highly individualized, evidence-based, comprehensive continuum of care. From detox to aftercare, our specialized recovery services can help you recover once and for all, even if you consider yourself treatment-resistant. For more information about BRC Recovery and our family of programs, contact us at 1-866-905-4550.