Chemical structure of morphine.

AI May Save Lives by Predicting Addiction Problem Areas

The opioid crisis in America may have a new tool to reduce the number of overdoses being dealt with across the country⏤AI.

Just under 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from opioid abuse. Whether from pain management gone wrong or heroin abuse, the number of abusers increased by nearly 30% from July 2016 to September 2017, according to a study printed in the journal Pain.

Researchers at the East Technical University in Turkey and the University of Pittsburgh say they’ve made encouraging progress toward a remedy to target problem areas. In a new paper (“CASTNet: Community-Attentive Spatio-Temporal Networks for Opioid Overdose Forecasting”) published on the preprint server, they describe an AI system capable of forecasting overdoses from socioeconomics and patterns of crime incidents.

“[Our] proposed model allows for interpreting what features, from what communities, have more contributions to predicting local incidents as well as how these communities are captured through forecasting,” explained the paper’s coauthors. “[S]tudies have identified relationships between opioid use and crime incidences, including cause (that opioid use leads to criminal activities), effect (that involvement in criminal behavior leads to drug use), and common causes (that crime and drug tend to co-occur).”

Kyle Wiggers reports in that AI has been tested in two markets, Chicago and Cincinnati. By going back as far as 2010 to research statistics such as crime, overdoses, employment, and other markers, their AI began to tabulate. They collected the geolocation, time, and category for each crime feature. For Chicago specifically, they collected opioid overdose death records from the open source Opioid Mapping Initiative Open Datasets, and for Cincinnati, they used the EMS response data.

“Based on these results, the neighborhoods with higher population and lower or moderate gender diversity may require additional resources to prevent opioid overdose in both cities,” wrote the researchers. “Also, economic status is important for neighborhoods of both cities, which is consistent with the previous work that suggested communities with a higher concentration of economic stressors (e.g. low income, poverty) may be vulnerable to abuse of opioids as a way to manage chronic stress and mood disorders.”

Alphabet’s life science division, Verily, is building a tech-focused rehab campus in Dayton, Ohio to combat the opioid crisis. Once communities are aware of the likelihood of overdoses, they can broadly provide emergency treatment to community groups and police in the form of Narcan nasal spray, which reverses the effects of the drug.

An article on says Verily will join two health networks, Kettering Health Network and Premier Health to create a nonprofit named OneFifteen. Alexandria Real Estate Equities will design and develop the campus, which will offer both inpatient and outpatient services.