Is Wearable Tech the Next Step in Recovery Support?

People in substance misuse recovery sometimes struggle with successfully coping with stressful situations. In our busy modern lives, there isn’t always the opportunity to politely step out to make a phone call. Sudden urges to misuse substances can hit at any time, no matter how much work an individual has done to restructure their thought processes and coping mechanisms.  A new device from Penn State aims to not only identify high stress moments or urges to use, but also to provide immediate response options.

The device, known as WearIT, monitors wearers on both active and passive levels. Passively, it collects data such as ambient temperature and weather, wearer’s heart rate and sleep patterns, GPS location, activity, and time of day. Actively, it lets users interact and track mood through journaling, shorter text thoughts, recorded audio or video and surveys. Once the device has “learned” the wearer’s triggers, it can offer a wide array of responses from games to music, suggesting a phone call to a supportive person or family member, display a calming image or, in case of an crisis, connect the wearer with emergency services.

Beyond these benefits, the WearIT will also be able to generate reports including such details as meeting attendance, most difficult times of day, goal setting and progress, and the wearer’s effective coping mechanisms.  Presently WearIT is transitioning from a research tool to a marketable product aimed at recovery centers and rehabilitation programs, which would pay on a subscription basis per user. It is expected to hit the nationwide market in Summer of 2018, mostly likely under a different product name.

While there may be some concerns about privacy and patient data confidentiality, WearIt can be an asset rather than cause worry or stress.  As long as wearers voluntarily commit to using the WearIt device, rather than being required to through a court-madate like an ankle monitor, it could be an effective tool. Given the proliferation of in-home, mobile, and wearable personal digital assistants such as Alexa, Echo, Siri, and FitBit, the WearIT demonstrates no new invasions into personal privacy, and instead offers great potential benefits for people in recovery from substance misuse disorders.

The Ammon Foundation is focused on helping individuals achieve healthy, successful futures. We support education programs, share information about advances in the field of recovery, and assist professionals who serve the recovery community. To learn more about the Ammon Foundation and our academic scholarships, please visit