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Technology Use and Drug Using Outcomes: New Research

Updated: Aug 29

Editor’s note: It’s graduation season, which means a slew of new dissertations! In today’s post, we include a few recent projects concerning technological interventions in problematic drug use. These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography continuously compiled by Jonathon Erlen, selections of which were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. Contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

A New Kind of Therapeutic Relationship: Exploring Factors that Influence the Effectiveness of Computer-Delivered Interventions for Alcohol Use Disorders

Author: Campbell, William P., IV

Abstract: Computer-delivered interventions (CDI) for alcohol use comprise a relatively new treatment for individuals struggling with problematic drinking. While CDIs for alcohol misuse have proliferated over the last decade, much remains unknown about factors that influence their effectiveness. This study evaluated the performance of Overcoming Addictions (OA), a CDI based on the principles of SMART Recovery (SR). Subjects were drawn from a sample of 189 participants enrolled in a randomized clinical trial (RCT) that compared three and six-month outcomes for two interventions for problematic alcohol use: control participants were enrolled in SR meetings (face to face and/or online); experimental participants also had access to OA. Primary analyses of between group differences were conducted to detect an additive effect of OA. Further, this study explored variables thought to mediate the effectiveness of OA, and CDIs for problematic alcohol use more generally. Within the experimental group, analyses were conducted to examine whether participants’ amount of experience navigating the Internet accounted for any variance associated with positive outcomes; also, the study examined the mediating effect of two other closely related variables: participants’ sense of how easy the website was to use, and whether participants were satisfied with the amount of content on the website. Primary analysis indicated that both the control and experimental groups showed significant improvement across outcome variables, although no additional benefit of OA was detected. Finally, no evidence was found to support the hypotheses for the identified variables thought to mediate the effectiveness of OA. Implications of this null finding are discussed.

Publication year: 2015

Advisor: Dougher, Michael J.

Committee member: Gangestad, Steven W.; Moyers, Theresa B.; Witherington, David C.; Woodall, William G.

University/institution: The University of New Mexico

Department: Psychology

Designing and Evaluating a Self-Help Website to Reduce Teen Alcohol Use

Author: Current, Brittany

Abstract: Teen substance use is an issue of major concern. Increasing numbers of teens are using alcohol and at earlier ages, resulting in severe and lasting consequences. Given teenagers’ developmental predispositions for risk-taking, illusions of invincibility, and limited attention to long-term consequences, it is critical for parents and other concerned adults to help teenagers think about and realistically evaluate the consequences of their actions in age-appropriate ways. Teens and young adults have been noted for being highly technically savvy, being regular online users, and obtaining much of their information online. Therefore, it would be helpful to leverage technical and online solutions for supporting teens in resisting pressures to drink. However, existing self-help websites are created and run by mental health professionals, generally without help or feedback from teens. The present action research project contributed to existing literature by inviting teens to participate in the design of a new self-help website by providing evaluative feedback through group interviews. This is the only research project involving focus group evaluations of teen self-help websites known to date. The present project involved designing, evaluating, and modifying a new self-help website for teenagers who are using alcohol or considering using alcohol, with the purpose of helping them avoid underage drinking and its consequences. First, a website was created based on an extensive literature review. Second, a 2-hour workshop of 15 college students was convened to present and evaluate the website. Focus group notes were transcribed and emerging topics for each question were summarized. Third, the website was redesigned based on participant feedback. Recommendations based on the results on the present study are to continue creating and maintaining alcohol and substance abuse self-help websites for teens and to create awareness about these sites so the target population may make use of them. Suggestions for continued research are to repeat the study with a larger sample and improved data collection tools. Another suggestion for continued research is to explore additional self-help options for teens to avoid underage drinking.

Publication year: 2016

Advisor: Willmarth, Eric

Committee member: Hoffman, Louis; Schmitt, Robert

University/institution: Saybrook University

Department: Psychology

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