Web-based and mobile application interventions: a knowledge synthesis

Online computerized or mobile application interventions for problem gambling and alcohol or drug abuse could alleviate certain barriers to entering treatment, including accessibility.

However, little is known about the characteristics of individuals who use these interventions and their effectiveness at reducing alcohol, drug or gambling consumption.

Online interventions appear to be a promising alternative to conventional interventions.

This systematic review describes the state of knowledge about online interventions and draws a typical user profile. The scientific literature was obtained by searching scientific databases for addiction-related studies. Following a secondary screening, 50 studies were retained and, after excluding personalized feedback-based preventive interventions and feasibility studies, including the only three on gambling interventions, 18 studies were analyzed: 15 on alcohol interventions and three on drug interventions. Most of the interventions were web-based (requiring a computer or electronic device with internet connection), while three were mobile applications.

The majority of the interventions were based on theoretical motivational and cognitive-behavioural approaches and included components that have proved effective in self-administered treatments available offline. The users of the online interventions generally had the following characteristics: middle-aged adults (30-45 years), educated, presenting at-risk use of drugs or alcohol.

Regarding intervention effectiveness, most of the studies showed a decrease in consumption that was sustained in the medium term (6 months). However, few studies included a longer follow-up. Online interventions appear to be a promising alternative to conventional interventions, and merit longer-term effectiveness studies and more attention from stakeholders.

Main researcher

Stéphane Bouchard, Université du Québec en Outaouais


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: November 2015