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AI algorithm tracks youth at risk of substance abuse

The new development comes from Penn State University and it seeks to build upon initiatives intended to address the rise of substance abuse among homeless youth, relating to the U.S.

In many instances, the likelihood of abuse is tracked by a social worker. The new approach takes a data-driven analytical tool, to process environmental and psychological factors that may contribute to a young person’s potential for developing a substance use disorder. This disorder is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication.

The data-based approach uses an artificial intelligence algorithm that will help predict a person’s susceptibility to substance use disorder. The focus is with young homeless people. As well as being able to assess a given population, the algorithm can suggest personalized rehabilitation programs for those identified as vulnerable.

To develop the algorithm, he researchers broke down a series of collected data into smaller datasets based on geographical differences, assessing varying environmental conditions, drug legalization policies and gang associations, across several U.S. states. In trials, the algorithm, called CORTA (Comprehensive Opioid Response Tool Driven by Artificial Intelligence) out performed state workers.

Using these data, the algorithm was able to determine a correlational role with people suffering from substance abuse disorder. This analysis enables social services to target different areas and to identify which groups to work with. This helps with resource management and orientating resources to the areas of most need.

Research into the development of the algorithm was presented at the Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) conference during August 2020.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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