Digital interventions for alcohol and drug misuse prevention, treatment and recovery: systematic maps of research and available interventions

Helen Burchett, Claire Stansfield, Wendy Macdowall, Michelle Richardson, Samantha Dick, Kelly Dickson, Preethy D'Souza, Claire Louise Khouja, Irene Kwan, Gary Austin Raine, Amanda Jayne Sowden, Katy Sutcliffe, James Thomas

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Digital interventions in alcohol and drug prevention, treatment and recovery have the potential to overcome barriers faced by non-digital interventions. However, we lack a clear understanding of the types of digital interventions that have been evaluated and where gaps in the evidence base exist. We also need to understand the effectiveness of different types of digital alcohol and drug interventions for various population groups. Further, we do not know which digital alcohol and drug interventions are being used in England, and whether the interventions in use align with those that have been evaluated.
Research questions
To address the above concerns, we sought to address the following questions:
• RQ1: What is the possible range of digital alcohol and drug interventions?
• RQ2: Which types of digital alcohol and drug interventions are currently
available for use in England?
• RQ3: What systematic reviews provide findings for digital alcohol and drug
intervention strategies within a prevention/treatment/recovery pathway?
• RQ4: Which types of digital alcohol and drug interventions have been evaluated
in primary research?
• RQ5: To what extent does the evaluation evidence overlap with digital alcohol
and drug interventions that are currently available for use in England?
• RQ6: What evidence is there that certain types of digital alcohol and drug
interventions are (cost-) effective or ineffective for specific population groups
or in particular contexts?
This report covers our findings in relation to questions RQ1 - RQ5. Based on these findings we also provide suggestions as to what could be the focus of further work to answer RQ6.
To address RQ1 an initial typology was drafted, adapting and building on existing typologies of digital interventions. Through this process it became clear to OHID/PHE that a pathway, presenting a route through services, with different types of interventions recommended for use at different times would be more helpful than a typology of intervention characteristics. This pathway was then developed by OHID/PHE and trialled by the research team, with refinements made over time with discussions between the study team and PHE. To address RQ2 we contacted people in England in 2019, who were involved in
developing, commissioning, prescribing, recommending or evaluating digital
alcohol/drug interventions. Using an online survey, we asked them to describe the interventions they were involved with. To address RQ3, RQ4 and RQ5 we conducted systematic searching and screening to identify and describe existing systematic reviews (RQ3) and primary studies (RQ4). Included systematic reviews were appraised for quality and detailed information was extracted from full reports. For primary studies we extracted basic details using the information contained within the title and abstract. The pathway developed for RQ1 was employed to code and describe the nature of available interventions (RQ2), systematic reviews (RQ3) and primary studies (RQ4). EPPI-Mapper software was used to produce online interactive maps to visually display the findings.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
Commissioning bodyNIHR Policy Research Programme
Number of pages159
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-911605-18-8
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2022

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