Camera Phones Monitor Meth-Head Compliance

By Kenneth Garger 08/17/11

Scientists say using cell phone photos to check that meth-addicts take their prescribed modafinil regularly is a viable plan.

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Camera phones have been used in a recent experiment to check up on the prescribed pill-popping of meth-addicts. Researchers for the American Society of Addiction Medicine provided 20 patients with camera-equipped cell-phones. The participants were asked to snap themselves with modafinil capsule in hand every time they were about to take a dose of the drug, which is used to treat meth-dependence. They then had to email the photo to the research center. The results of this approach were compared with two other patient compliance methods: Medication Event Monitoring Systems (MEMS)—a system that detects when a pill bottle is opened using an attached electronic recording device—and the simple practice of counting pills at each health visit. At fist glance, the results suggest that technology doesn't always mean "advanced": pill-counting showed a 95% compliance rate, MEMS showed 94%, and camera phones just 77%. But of course, there are always factors in play that can skew such outcomes. The researchers believe the cell phone approach underestimates adherence, while the MEMS method inflates its score compliance rate: "MEMS overestimation could be explained by subjects opening the bottle without taking a pill, while the photograph underestimation could be explained by subjects failing to send a photograph.” It's not exactly rocket-science, but overall the study, due to appear in September's Journal of Addiction Medicine, deems the new approach successful: “Camera-equipped cell phones provide a useful and cost-effective approach for monitoring compliance with recommended treatment.” Just as long as users don't join the growing ranks of cell phone addicts reported elsewhere.

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Ken Garger is a reporter for the New York Post. You can follow him on Twitter.