Can an Electronic Temporary Tattoo Prevent Drunk Driving?

Wilmington NC alcohol rehabHow many people have had too much to drink but don’t really realize it because they’re not fully aware of it themselves?

How many drivers do you think would still take the risk of getting behind the wheel, if they were aware of their blood alcohol content?

Have you ever wondered how many cases of driving while intoxicated would have been avoided if the driver knew just how intoxicated they were?

With new advances in modern technology soon you might have a way to know. If you, or a loved one, need help with drinking too much, reach out to Legacy Freedom. You'll love our outpatient Wilmington NC alcohol rehab programs.

New Tech Prevents Drunk Driving

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a flexible, wearable sensor that monitors your body’s blood alcohol content through sweat. The sensor consists of two parts, a small temporary tattoo and a circuit board that is attached to the tattoo magnetically. The tattoo works by releasing pilocarpine which is a drug that induces sweating and is medically used for things like curing dry mouth. The sweat then comes to the skin's surface and an electrochemical sensor made of an alcohol sensitive enzyme measures the sweat’s alcohol concentration.  After the reading, the blood alcohol information can be sent via Bluetooth to a smart phone or laptop so the wearer will know when they’ve had too much to drink. The circuit board is also smaller than a stick of gum so it can go unnoticed on your arm during a night out.

This invention was created after a government funded challenge launched in 2015—“A Wearable Alcohol Biosensor.” The challenge asked participants to design a wearable device that monitors blood alcohol content in real time that is inconspicuous, low profile, and appealing to the wearer.  The California Engineers are known as BACtrack, a company known nationally for designing and selling portable breath alcohol testers, similar to those that police officers use, for both professional and consumer use. The tattoo device has been named the BACtrack Skyn.

There are two major means used to determine a person’s blood alcohol level; that is by a blood alcohol indicator which involves a finger prick and then blood work and is the most accurate, or by a breathalyzer which has been known to give false readings. Both of these options are quite invasive and take a while to get results back. With this new tattoo, you can have results in as little as 15 minutes, discreetly sent to your phone or computer. Since the readout information will be stored on a phone or computer, this is also a good way to keep up with a sobriety mentor, a concerned partner, or substance abuse counselor if you are a recovering alcoholic and need to show your improvements.

wilmington NC alcohol rehabAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one person dies every 53 minutes, in the US, in an alcohol-related car accident. With shocking statistics like this, something must be done. Ignition interlock devices are being marketed as a way to stop drunk driving but these are based on breath analysis which can be affected by a number of factors including temperature, humidity, the type of perfume the user is wearing, or even if the person has used mouthwash that day. However since the information this tattoo sends is via Bluetooth, it can be linked to a car’s ignition interlock device, giving a completely accurate reading and not allowing the wearer to turn on their car if the reading comes back as intoxicated.

The device has been tested by researchers. In order to test the device, nine healthy volunteers were selected to wear the device on their arm before, during, and after consuming an alcoholic beverage of either red wine or beer. The readout on the device was accurate for each volunteer based on how much they consumed. The researchers also took it a step farther and tested the readings after the tattoo had been bent and shaken and still got accurate readings. This means, even after a long night of dancing, the readings from the tattoo will still be accurate!

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This is a great advancement in technology because it can actually be used in real life situations. Bartenders could use this technology to determine when to stop serving alcohol to a customer that they suspect may have had too much to drink. A group of friends can use this technology after spending the night out to determine who can safely drive home. Since the readings are transmitted by Bluetooth, the tattoo could also be paired with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, so a driver couldn’t start their car if they’re too drunk. Besides being able to be used in everyday life situations, this device could help doctors and scientists have a reliable way of tracking alcohol levels for research purposes.

According to Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, an addiction therapist and clinical trauma professional, “I think this patch is a great addition to combating drunk driving and other accidents caused by alcohol consumption. It will quantify the amount of alcohol in a person's system thus eliminating a lack of judgment around it, by increasing awareness about one's alcohol consumption; people have a better chance of avoiding death and destruction caused by it.”

Right now this technology isn’t available for purchase but researchers hope it will soon hit the market for about $99. Since the current design is a disposable, one time use piece, they are working on creating a tattoo that can continuously track alcohol levels for 24 hours. If this product becomes available soon, its accuracy could save lives.

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