iMStrong: Deployment of a Biosensor System to Detect Cocaine Use

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine, Division of Medical Toxicology; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center; School of Medicine; Senior Scholars Program

Publication Date


Document Type



Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering | Computer Sciences | Emergency Medicine | Health Information Technology | Medical Toxicology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction | Toxicology


Biosensor systems are increasingly promoted for use in behavioral interventions. Portable biosensors might offer advancement over self-report use and can provide improved opportunity for detection and intervention in patients undergoing drug treatment programs. Fifteen participants wore a biosensor wristband capable of detecting multiple physiologic markers of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) arousal for 30 days. Urine drug screening and drug use self-report were obtained twice per week. A parameter trajectory description method was applied to capture abrupt changes in magnitude of three measures of SNS activity: Electrodermal activity (EDA), skin temperature and motion. Drug use events detected by the biosensor were verified using a triad of parameters: the biosensor data, urine drug screens, and patient self-report of substance use. Twelve positive cocaine urine screens were identified. Thirteen self-reported episodes of cocaine use were recorded. Distinct episodes with biometric parameters consistent with cocaine use were identified on biosensor data. Eleven potential cocaine use episodes were identified by biosensors that were missed by both self-report and drug screening. Study participants found mobile biosensors to be acceptable, and compliance with the protocol was high. Episodes of cocaine use, as measured by supraphysiologic changes in biophysiometric parameters, were detected by analysis of biosensor data in instances when self-report or drug screening or both failed. Biosensors have substantial potential in detecting substance abuse, in understanding the context of use in real time, and in evaluating the efficacy of behavioral interventions for drug abuse.


UMCCTS funding, Biosensor system, Drug abuse, Mobile biosensing, Parameter trajectory, mHealth

DOI of Published Version



Carreiro S, Fang H, Zhang J, Wittbold K, Weng S, Mullins R, Smelson D, Boyer EW. iMStrong: Deployment of a Biosensor System to Detect Cocaine Use. J Med Syst. 2015 Dec;39(12):186. doi: 10.1007/s10916-015-0337-9. Epub 2015 Oct 21. PubMed PMID: 26490144. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of medical systems

PubMed ID



Kelley Wittbold participated in this study as a medical student as part of the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed