This project aimed to develop and test the first highly interactive, comprehensive, and evidence-based smartphone app for treating cannabis use.
Professor David Kavanagh
Institute of Health and Biomedical Information, Queensland University of Technology
Dr Annie Lau
Australian Institute of Health Innovation, UNSW
The potential of mobile health to transform health service delivery across the globe has not yet been realised, partly due to the lack of evidence for its efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Among other notable gaps is a lack of trials on smartphone applications (apps) for substance use, including the most commonly abused illegal drug – cannabis. Mobile phones have unparalleled ability to support behaviour change in the natural environment. Given that Australia has the second highest smartphone penetration in the world and that 42% of Australians in drug treatment are concerned about their cannabis use, Australia is well positioned to be at the forefront of building the evidence base for mobile health for treating cannabis use.
To develop and test a smartphone app for assisting people to quit or reduce their cannabis use.
A survey was conducted with cannabis users (n=142) to gauge interest in an app for reducing cannabis use, and desired app features. Based on survey responses and clinical practice guidelines, NCPIC developed the iPhone app known as APTT (Assess, Plan, Track, and Tips). APTT employs principles of MET and CBT which have been shown to effectively reduce cannabis use and related problems. To evaluate APTT, 111 participants reporting problematic cannabis use were recruited to use the app for a one-month period.
We found that following 4 weeks use of APTT participants significantly reduced the number of days in which they used cannabis, and their use continued to decline at the 1-month follow-up. Participants also reported significantly fewer problems associated with their cannabis use, as well as reduced depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms immediately following use of APTT and this remained stable at follow-up.There was no apparent change in severity of dependence scores immediately post-intervention, but we did observe a slight significant reduction at the 1-month follow-up, providing support for a possible delayed effect of APTT on cannabis dependence. And finally participants’ self-efficacy significantly improved; meaning they felt more confident in their ability to resist using cannabis in a variety of contexts and situations.
The findings of this study were presented at the APSAD conference in Adelaide, and the app is currently being adapted for public dissemination in 2015.
Norberg MM, Rooke SE, Albertella L, Copeland J, Kavanagh DJ, et al. (2013) The First mHealth App for Managing Cannabis Use: Gauging its Potential Helpfulness. Journal of Addictive Behaviors, Therapy and Rehabilitation, DOI:10.4172/2324-9005.S1-001.
Melissa M. Norberg; Sally Rooke; Lucy Albertella; Jan Copeland; David J. Kavanagh and Annie Lau. Assess, Plan, Track, and Tips (APTT): Developing and testing the first smartphone app for managing cannabis use. Presented at the 2013 NDARC Annual Symposium, Sydney, 4 September 2013.
J. Copeland, L. Albertella, M. Norberg, S. Rooke (2013). A smart phone application for cannabis-related problems, 76th Annual Meeting - College on Problems of Drug Dependence, San Diego, 14-19 June.
S.E. Rooke, M.M. Norberg,J. Copeland, L. Albertella, D.J. Kavanagh, & A. Lau (2013). Assess, Plan, Track, and Tips (APTT): Developing and testing the first smartphone app for managing cannabis use. Presented at the NDARC Annual Research Symposium, Sydney, 4th September.
Webb, L., Rooke, S., Albertella, L., & Copeland, J. (2014). Feasibility and potential efficacy of an evidenced-based mHealth App for managing cannabis use. Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) Scientific Conference, Adelaide, Australia, 9-12 November.
Seeking treatment for cannabis use can be difficult due to accessibility issues and stigmatisation concerns. The availability of an evidence-based app for reducing or quitting cannabis may encourage treatment seeking among individuals who would otherwise not receive treatment.