Realising the technological promise of smartphones in addiction research and treatment: an ethical review

Capon, Hannah, Hall, Wayne, Fry, Craig and Carter, Adrian (2016) Realising the technological promise of smartphones in addiction research and treatment: an ethical review. International Journal of Drug Policy, 36 47-57. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.05.013

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Author Capon, Hannah
Hall, Wayne
Fry, Craig
Carter, Adrian
Title Realising the technological promise of smartphones in addiction research and treatment: an ethical review
Journal name International Journal of Drug Policy   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1873-4758
0955-3959
Publication date 2016-10-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.05.013
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 36
Start page 47
End page 57
Total pages 11
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Language eng
Subject 2701 Medicine (miscellaneous)
2719 Health Policy
Abstract Background Smartphone technologies and mHealth applications (or apps) promise unprecedented scope for data collection, treatment intervention, and relapse prevention when used in the field of substance abuse and addiction. This potential also raises new ethical challenges that researchers, clinicians, and software developers must address. Aims This paper aims to identify ethical issues in the current uses of smartphones in addiction research and treatment. Methods A search of three databases (PubMed, Web of Science and PsycInfo) identified 33 studies involving smartphones or mHealth applications for use in the research and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. A content analysis was conducted to identify how smartphones are being used in these fields and to highlight the ethical issues raised by these studies. Results Smartphones are being used to collect large amounts of sensitive information, including personal information, geo-location, physiological activity, self-reports of mood and cravings, and the consumption of illicit drugs, alcohol and nicotine. Given that detailed information is being collected about potentially illegal behaviour, we identified the following ethical considerations: protecting user privacy, maximising equity in access, ensuring informed consent, providing participants with adequate clinical resources, communicating clinically relevant results to individuals, and the urgent need to demonstrate evidence of safety and efficacy of the technologies. Conclusions mHealth technology offers the possibility to collect large amounts of valuable personal information that may enhance research and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. To realise this potential researchers, clinicians and app-developers must address these ethical concerns to maximise the benefits and minimise risks of harm to users.
Formatted abstract
Background: Smartphone technologies and mHealth applications (or apps) promise unprecedented scope for data collection, treatment intervention, and relapse prevention when used in the field of substance abuse and addiction. This potential also raises new ethical challenges that researchers, clinicians, and software developers must address.

Aims: This paper aims to identify ethical issues in the current uses of smartphones in addiction research and treatment.

Methods: A search of three databases (PubMed, Web of Science and PsycInfo) identified 33 studies involving smartphones or mHealth applications for use in the research and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. A content analysis was conducted to identify how smartphones are being used in these fields and to highlight the ethical issues raised by these studies.

Results: Smartphones are being used to collect large amounts of sensitive information, including personal information, geo-location, physiological activity, self-reports of mood and cravings, and the consumption of illicit drugs, alcohol and nicotine. Given that detailed information is being collected about potentially illegal behaviour, we identified the following ethical considerations: protecting user privacy, maximising equity in access, ensuring informed consent, providing participants with adequate clinical resources, communicating clinically relevant results to individuals, and the urgent need to demonstrate evidence of safety and efficacy of the technologies.

Conclusions: mHealth technology offers the possibility to collect large amounts of valuable personal information that may enhance research and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. To realise this potential researchers, clinicians and app-developers must address these ethical concerns to maximise the benefits and minimise risks of harm to users.
Keyword Addiction
Ethics
MHealth
Research
Smartphones
Substance abuse
Treatment
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: UQ Centre for Clinical Research Publications
HERDC Pre-Audit
Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research Publications
 
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 3 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 3 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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