Intra-Oral Device Detects Opioid Overdose

As you may have heard, the U.S. is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths from heroin, oxycontin, and fentanyl have quadrupled since 1999. The key to detecting opioid overdose before it’s too late is in monitoring respiration. Opioids in particular cause depressed respiration, which is slow and ineffective breathing that’s inadequate for the gas exchange that keeps us alive. Depressed respiration becomes fatal unless the patient is given nalaxone, an antidote that works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain.

[Curt White] is developing an intra-oral device to prevent opioid overdose via early detection. It tracks a patient’s inhale/exhale rate and sends the data over Bluetooth to an open-source website.  The tiny device uses an air pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, and a thermopile thermometer to accurately track a person’s full respiration waveform whether their mouth is open or closed. The brain is one of [Curt]’s hacked $35 activity trackers that we told you about a few days ago.

All of the hardware including the battery is embedded in a custom retainer made from thermoplastic. [Curt] used Tyvek and surgical tape to isolate the air pressure sensor. Both are waterproof and breathable, which means that air can get to the sensor, but not saliva. Hold your breath and click past the break to watch [Curt] demonstrate this amazing tool on himself.

32 thoughts on “Intra-Oral Device Detects Opioid Overdose

    1. People should stop sharing videos of their work unless they can at least pay for a production team to take care of video and audio recording, lighting and editing.

      1. I watched the video and had no trouble at all understanding what you said, nor was the AGC in my opinion.

        Also just to verify the operation of my time machine, when did you start this project?

        Before or after I posted ?

        If this seems like coincidence to you, then we are in a rare probe history as I didn’t submit my time machine design files to the hackaday prize… well I will submit them now so than in an alternate history you guys already got the design a while ago, I guess it will have to wait another year for us…

        I have no domain knowledge about overdose detection, so I can’t give useful feedback, but given a fixed approach of detecting the overdose with an oral device, this is a very brilliant execution!


  1. So let’s see, blame it on the drug right ? Do we blame Big Mac’s and Wendys triple bacon cheeseburgers for the “obesity epidemic” ? or how about blaming the automobile for the traffic death epidemic ? could go on and on. It’s a matter of weak willed losers with no will power. Call it what it is, individual choice. No one forced these “addicts” to participate in becoming drug addicted junkies. Reminds me of an old song by WASP “Thunderhead”.

    1. You’re ignoring or omitting a ton of issues relating to opioid addiction. Most people are prescribed the drugs for legit pain issues and become addicted accidentally. If you’ve never been through withdrawals, you really should stop talking. Your ignorance is showing.

    2. As much as im on board with your statement, John has a fair point, you wouldn’t believe the kinds of meds some people get prescribed, and you should also realize that after some time a (hard-)drug user cant really quit without outside help anymore (see aforementioned withdrawals) Im not advocating for people that ‘need’ this sort of invention or anything at all, just know that there are two sides too the coin, and simply going ‘well dont do drugs’ is a bit too easy.

    3. “It’s a matter of weak willed losers with no will power. Call it what it is, individual choice. No one forced these “addicts” to participate in becoming drug addicted junkies.”

      Look, I’m an individualist too. Individual choice is important, no one forces you to care.

      But why #LetThemRot? Individualism does not in any way proscriibe to let them rot. To think it does is in fact anti-individualist:
      Consider a non-addicted productive individualist, who is free to sympathize with others and their problems. Why proscribe to this individual to let them rot? Why discourage sympathy?

      An engineer or scientist who has invested time and effort in the skills to help others is free to apply them thus if he/she so wishes. Perhaps their sister, or a parent, or a deceased partner is/was addicted. By individualism there is no _effective_ means to force a person to kick the addiction. People who care can try and devise means to improve their survival rate.

      Consider the following finite state machine:

      Clean –getAddicted–> Addicted –overDose–> Death
      Clean <–getClean– Addicted

      Preventing overdose helps people get clean, simply by keeping them alive such that the getClean reaction is possible.

      To me this project screams #ChooseLife

      1. Yup… and that is the misunderstanding of the problem that is so common and is going to cause so many people incredible pain and suffering.

        “It’s a matter of weak willed losers with no will power. Call it what it is, individual choice. No one forced these “addicts” to participate in becoming drug addicted junkies.”

        Do you even understand what an Opiate is? Sure, some people are dumbasses that choose to take these drugs for fun and end up addicted. Honestly I can’t find it in me to care about those people because… others are people with genuine incurable pain that without drugs make their lives not worth living. Opiates are honestly their only hope.

        The push to fight this so-called epidemic is hurting people that have a genuine need for strong pain medication. Certainly even some people who take it because they need it and not for recreation end up addicted. But.. until if and when a better way to fix their underlying problems is found it is sometimes a case of just choosing the lesser evil. What is worse, taking medications for decades, gradually upping the dosage as it looses effectiveness and eventually dying calmly of an overdose? Or suffering day in and day out from pain due to uncorrectable injury or genetic bad luck quite possibly dying even sooner due to hopelessness and suicide?

        That is the epidemic that is coming, actually already started although the medical community mainstream media have been slow to recognize it. While I too would prefer a solution that helps everyone I would gladly sacrifice the dumbasses who made their own choices to avoid causing so much pain and suffering as the fight against pain killers is causing to innocents.

  2. Looks like an interesting idea, on the surface, but it has multiple problems (such as hygiene) unlike existing passive RF monitoring options that sense respiration. Remember all of those projects that use ambient WiFi etc. to detect movement, particularly when coupled with a bit of AI to pull the signals of interest out of the background? Yeah all that stuff is a much better option, and it has many other associated benefits including security, visit logging and fall detection etc. Anyway opioids are about to become redundant for the majority of pain management cases as new drugs move onto the market, drugs that act to block pain effectively without interfering with the central nervous system. Most of the death are not in a medical setting anyway and a lot of those may have been more deliberate than authorities are prepared to admit too.

  3. This sort of device may be more useful in a post operative recovery ward or ICU setting in which people are coming out of anaesthesia or are being weaned off of centrally sedating agents, or are being monitored post overdose. The unit would need to be easily cleaned, and would essentially be a “use once for one patient” item due to the impracticalities of sterilisation between patients.

      1. now Imagine capnography without been tethered to a machine.
        This iteration of the product the highlighted the challenges in getting data out of the body. if I recall correctly they were happy if implementation allowed the wearer to still be able to communicate with semi intelligible grunts. Yes it has a long way to go but for an early investigation of a concept it works. Now it needs an injection of funds to refine, expand and miniaturize.

      2. In a less developed country, mass casualty event, or battlefield trauma awaiting evac, with not many pulse oximeters and capnograpgs to go around, it could be useful if combined with a guedel or similar. Perhaps the designer should be chatting with DARPA.

  4. What’s the use-case though? No paranoid user/abuser is going to log data to the web about their illicit drug use. No user/abuser who is about to nod-off is going to remember to take precaution… If they’re that far in, they need sometying that’s ready to go before they’re at the point of needing it. Maybe a spandex shirt with resistance changes as the thing stretches would be better, since they can feign an excuse such as “it’s for when I go jogging/workout”. Or a pulse-oximeter wrist band “hey checkout this awesome grateful dead light-up wristband I got, man”… These people can get embarrassed by being in treatment and have all sorts of personal body image issues.

    1. The solution is to not ban the drugs but bring them into the open so that they can be tested for bad batches and suchlike and people can be helped easier. I have never seen or heard of anything other than a person committing a crime, therefore its a bit silly to ban people from owning, making, buying, selling or using objects so long as they are not infringing on others freedom to do likewise

  5. Why not use a contract microphone on the throat like the military uses for voice in noisy environments? You could just as easily use the sound to detect shallow breaths and it would have way more room for wireless electronics with easier to manage hygiene. You’d have fewer sensors, but I personally would never be able to sleep with something in my mouth. For me at least, a collar would be more comfortable

  6. This is gonna sound alot more shitty then i intend it to be, but why bother caring about people that do so much drugs they’re ramping themselves up for an early death? dont get me wrong i like a little recreational drug use myself, but if you need sensors in your mouth to prevent an OD you’ve gone to far years ago.

    1. Replying to myself since it was pointed out theres plenty of meds which can cause addiction and overdose too, that i forgot when typing the initial reply above. I still feel like a ‘plain drug user’ needing this is really not worthy of it, but maybe thats just me, for med users i would personally suggest an external device that only gives them the meds they need so they simply cannot OD.

  7. Late to the party with a comment. I am impressed with the thoughtfulness that [Curt White] has put into this project. Congrats on the post. However, I have some concerns about any medical device projects. Medical devices have a much higher standard than most of us appreciate. Failure is not an option. I mean it is, but then that involves lawyers. Regulation is both what makes medicine “safe” but also stifles innovation and hacking.
    If I was going to take you back for surgery, I don’t think there would be many patients who would like it if I showed them a little device I made printed out on my 3d printer I was going to test during your procedure. We have rules, ethics, and laws that protect you, the patient, from experimentation and possible exploitation.
    But where does this project fit in? I think this is an exercise for thought and experimentation and should be described as such. And I am not sure I want a lithium battery so close to my palette.
    For those who are overly narcotized, the individual may breathe out of their nose and not out of their mouth if at all. Airway patency is the first concern, and then CO2 detection is the medical standard for identification of breathing.
    The narcotic problem in this country is a political one that started back in 1914. I suggest Johann Hari’s book, Chasing the Scream, for a comprehensive perspective. Simplistic non-empathetic views that blame the victims are not science.
    Hacking medicine should be encouraged and promoted, but “Do no harm” and look for a mentor if possible.

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