Using Smartwatches As Harm Reduction Is Misguided, Expert Says

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Using Smartwatches As Harm Reduction Is Misguided, Expert Says

By Victoria Kim 07/12/18

“If someone says, ‘Let’s do a line,’ I’ll look at my watch. If I see I’m at 150 of 160, I’ll say, ‘I’m good.’ That’s totally fine. Nobody gives you a hard time,” said one man.

Image: 
woman using smartwatch

Can a Fitbit or Apple Watch keep you safe while you use drugs? That’s the idea presented by some people, according to CNBC.

“If someone says, ‘Let’s do a line,’ I’ll look at my watch. If I see I’m at 150 or 160, I’ll say, ‘I’m good.’ That’s totally fine. Nobody gives you a hard time,” said one individual called “Owen,” a tech worker in San Francisco.

It’s his way of being safe and not overdoing it, he tells CNBC. He’ll check his Fitbit at parties, nightclubs, even Burning Man. And if his heart rate gets too high, he’ll slow down.

“I don’t really know what’s happening in my body when I smoke some weed or do some cocaine. I can read information online, but that’s not specific to me. Watching your heart rate change on the Fitbit while doing cocaine is super real data that you’re getting about yourself,” said Owen.

According to CNBC, there are “dozens” of accounts of this activity across social media and Reddit forums.

One Redditor posted snapshots of her heart rate data via her Fitbit. “Sometimes I go for 3 days straight if I have an 8-ball to myself,” she wrote, according to Mashable. “And yes, I do all that with no sleep whatsoever until all the coke is gone. I wear a Fitbit Charge HR and it’s been fascinating seeing my heart rate during these coke binges.”

However, one medical expert was not impressed with this approach, instead painting it as misguided. “Taking drugs is always a risk, whether you’re monitoring a tracker or not,” said Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

He says this use of smartwatch devices is hardly a foolproof harm reduction measure, even going so far as to suggest that “it’s possible this is leading people to do more cocaine.”

Devices like the Fitbit and Apple Watch are only getting “smarter.” A team at the University of Rhode Island is working on developing software that would allow a person’s vital signs to be measured via a smartwatch. The idea is to make this information available to doctors, who may then adjust the patient’s medication or treatment regimen. 

Perhaps this will catch on with “tech-savvy” drug users as well.

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