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Are you a ‘faker shaker drug taker’?

There’s an app that’s gonna call you out.

Benzodiazepines are addictive drugs, but they are often used to help recover from other addictions, including managing of tremors and other symptoms caused by withdrawal from alcohol. Addicts that enjoy their benzodiazepines will often fake symptoms of quitting alcohol cold turkey just to get a script for the drug. Experienced physicians have gotten savvy at spotting fakers, but they can’t always tell a real tremor from a fake one. Now a new smarphone app developed by researchers at the University of Toronto aims to take the guesswork out of this and help objectively identify real tremors from fake ones.

The person being tested simply holds the phone in one hand while the app records the shakes using its built-in sensors. Turns out that hands shaking from true alcohol withdrawal get up to about a 7 Hz frequency, while a benzodiazepines addict would have a hard time replicating that rate. The app analyzes the patient’s hand’s vibration frequency and tells the doctor when it thinks it found a faker. The app has been trialed with real patients, achieving a pretty good accuracy but that is still no as good as a real doc evaluating a patient. Nevertheless, improving the app by having it take into consideration other parameters, such as body temperature and pupil size, for example, may make the new app better than doctors at spotting withdrawal fakers.


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