AUG 15, 2020 8:58 PM PDT

Predicting Substance Abuse Among The Homeless

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Homelessness remains the dark backdrop of a society that needs to do better. While programs have been created to address this issues, data remains out of the picture. As such, an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm was created by researchers at the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State. The algorithm can help could help offer educated predictions about substance abuse among homeless youth. "Proactive prevention of substance use disorder among homeless youth is much more desirable than reactive mitigation strategies such as medical treatments for the disorder and other related interventions," said Amulya Yadav, assistant professor of information sciences and technology and principal investigator on the project. "Unfortunately, most previous attempts at proactive prevention have been ad-hoc in their implementation."

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"To assist policymakers in devising effective programs and policies in a principled manner, it would be beneficial to develop AI and machine learning solutions which can automatically uncover a comprehensive set of factors associated with substance use disorder among homeless youth," added Maryam Tabar, a lead author of the study.

"By looking at what the model has learned, we can effectively find out factors which may play a correlational role with people suffering from substance abuse disorder," said Yadav. "And once we know these factors, we are much more accurately able to predict whether somebody suffers from substance use."

"We wanted to understand what the causative issues are behind people developing opiate addiction," said Yadav. "And then we wanted to assign these homeless youth to the appropriate rehabilitation program."

The algorithm collected data from more than 1,400 homeless youth in the U.S. This was used to build AI models to predict the risk of an opioid addiction among the population.

"For example, if a person developed an opioid addiction because they were isolated or didn't have a social circle, then perhaps as part of their rehabilitation program they should talk to a counselor," explained Yadav. "On the other hand, if someone developed an addiction because they were depressed because they couldn't find a job or pay their bills, then a career counselor should be a part of the rehabilitation plan."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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