The new use for fitness trackers that has physicians worried: Monitoring drug binges

Online communities on Reddit and Twitter are discussing how they monitor or review their heart rates during and after cocaine and alcohol use with their Fitbits and Apple Watches, according to a CNBC report by Christina Farr.

Ms. Farr spoke with two individuals on the condition of anonymity who are in their 20s and frequently use activity trackers while using drugs. She also found a YouTube channel called DrugsLab in which the hosts test various drugs and monitor their heart rates and body temperatures.

UC San Francisco cardiologist Ethan Weiss, MD, told Ms. Farr drug use is known to affect heart rhythm and blood pressure, but it can't be effectively tracked with consumer wearables just yet. Instead, these devices could be giving some drug users a false sense of security. Dr. Weiss expressed concern that these devices may be spiking an uptick in drug use.

"Taking drugs is always a risk, whether you're monitoring a tracker or not," Dr. Weiss said. "It's possible this is leading people to do more cocaine."

Still, one of the young people Ms. Farr spoke with said he uses his Fitbit to let him know when to slow down on a night out.

"If someone says, 'Let's do a line,' I'll look at my watch," the individual, who noted he usually clocks in at 55 beats per minute while resting, said. "If I see I'm at 150 or 160, I'll say, 'I'm good.' That's totally fine. Nobody gives you a hard time."

Although Dr. Weiss pointed to studies that have found flaws in the accuracy of heart rate monitors on smart devices, the individual said using a FitBit to track drug binges is still helpful for him.

"I don't really know what's happening in my body when I smoke some weed or do some cocaine," he told Ms. Farr. "I can read information online, but that's not specific to me. Watching your heart rate change on the Fitbit while doing cocaine is super real data that you're getting about yourself."

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