Research News Roundup: July 21, 2022

    Smartphone Ownership, Smartphone Utilization, and Interest in Using Mental Health Apps to Address Substance Use Disorders: Literature Review and Cross-sectional Survey Study Across Two Sites

    Journal: JMIR Formative Research, 2022, doi: 10.2196/38684

    Authors: Michael Hsu, Bianca Martin, Saeed Ahmed, John Torous & Joji Suzuki


    Background: In recent years, there has been increasing interest in implementing digital technologies to diagnose, monitor, and intervene in substance use disorders. Smartphones are now a vehicle for facilitating telepsychiatry visits, measuring health metrics, and communicating with health care professionals. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement toward web-based and hybrid clinic visits and meetings, it has become especially salient to assess phone ownership among individuals with substance use disorders and their comfort in navigating phone functionality and using phones for mental health purposes.

    Objective: The aims of this study were to summarize the current literature around smartphone ownership, smartphone utilization, and the acceptability of using smartphones for mental health purposes and assess these variables across two disparate substance use treatment sites.

    Methods: We performed a focused literature review via a search of two academic databases (PubMed and Google Scholar) for publications since 2007 on the topics of smartphone ownership, smartphone utilization, and the acceptability of using mobile apps for mental health purposes among the substance use population. Additionally, we conducted a cross-sectional survey study that included 51 participants across two sites in New England-an inpatient detoxification unit that predominantly treats patients with alcohol use disorder and an outpatient methadone maintenance treatment clinic.

    Results: Prior studies indicated that mobile phone ownership among the substance use population between 2013 and 2019 ranged from 83% to 94%, while smartphone ownership ranged from 57% to 94%. The results from our study across the two sites indicated 96% (49/51) mobile phone ownership and 92% (47/51) smartphone ownership among the substance use population. Although most (43/49, 88%) patients across both sites reported currently using apps on their phone, a minority (19/48, 40%) reported previously using any apps for mental health purposes. More than half of the participants reported feeling at least neutrally comfortable with a mental health app gathering information regarding appointment reminders (32/48, 67%), medication reminders (33/48, 69%), and symptom surveys (26/45, 58%). Most patients were concerned about privacy (34/51, 67%) and felt uncomfortable with an app gathering location (29/47, 62%) and social (27/47, 57%) information for health care purposes.

    Conclusions: The majority of respondents reported owning a mobile phone (49/51, 96%) and smartphone (47/51, 92%), consistent with prior studies. Many respondents felt comfortable with mental health apps gathering most forms of personal information and with communicating with their clinician about their mental health. The differential results from the two sites, namely greater concerns about the cost of mental health apps among the methadone maintenance treatment cohort and less experience with downloading apps among the older inpatient detoxification cohort, may indicate that clinicians should tailor technological interventions based on local demographics and practice sites and that there is likely not a one-size-fits-all digital psychiatry solution.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    Changes in the Patterns and Characteristics of Youth ENDS Use over Time

    Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2022, doi: 10.3390/ijerph19138120

    Authors: Stephen R. Shamblen, Melissa H. Abadi, Kirsten T. Thompson, Grisel García-Ramírez & Bonnie O. Richard


    Research on youth use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) has explored the correlates of initiation and use; however, little is known about the factors that predict continued youth use of ENDS. We used an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) burst design to explore both daily variability within adolescents over a two-week observation period and variability over time two years later (2018 and 2020). The contribution of device characteristics, motivations for use, contextual factors, and community factors to daily use occasions were explored. Youth participants (n = 35) at the start of the study were past two-week nicotine vapers, 14 to 17 years old, who resided within 100 miles of Louisville, KY, and reported past two-week ENDS use. Close to a quarter of participants ceased all tobacco use two years later, suggesting that some youth, despite prior regular vaping habits, may have only been experimenting with ENDS. The regular continued use of ENDS was predicted by trying to quit using cigarettes, appealing flavors, and being in locations where cigarette use was prohibited. Except for flavors, these factors did not affect ENDS use in year one. These findings suggest that tobacco policy might target ENDS use by prohibiting all tobacco use, including ENDS, in locations where smoking is already banned.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Improving Equity and Access to Buprenorphine Treatment Through Telemedicine at Syringe Services Programs

    Journal: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, & Policy, 2022, doi: 10.1186/s13011-022-00483-1

    Authors: Barrot H. Lambdin, David Kan & Alex H. Kral


    Background and Aims: In the United States, access to buprenorphine remains low and disparities regarding who receives treatment have emerged. Federal laws have regulated buprenorphine delivery, ultimately limiting its implementation more broadly. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies acted quickly to remove a legal barrier, effectively allowing people with opioid used disorder (OUD) to initiate buprenorphine treatment via telemedicine. Leveraging this policy shift, a low barrier buprenorphine treatment initiative via telemedicine was started at syringe service programs in California. We assessed early findings from participants reached by this model of treatment.

    Methods: In May 2020, buprenorphine treatment was offered through a virtual platform to SSP participants in California. SSP staff connected interested participants to virtual appointments with medical providers in a private location. During these visits, clinicians conducted clinical assessments for diagnosing participants with OUD and developed an unsupervised home induction plan for individuals who were eligible. Participants were prescribed a 7-day supply of up to 16 mg daily buprenorphine or 16 mg buprenorphine-2 mg naloxone and asked to return the following week if interested in continuing treatment.

    Results: From May 2020 to March 2021, the SSP-buprenorphine virtual care initiative inducted 115 participants onto treatment with 87% of participants inducted on the same day as their referral. Of those inducted, 58% were between the ages of 30 and 49 and 28% were cisgender female. Regarding participants’ method of payment to reimburse buprenorphine costs, 92% of participants were covered by Medicare/Medicaid. Overall, 64% of participants returned for a second buprenorphine prescription refill.

    Conclusions: These early findings suggest that this could be a promising approach to improve equity and access to buprenorphine treatment. We encourage policymakers to continue allowing buprenorphine delivery via telemedicine and researchers to study whether this approach improves equity and access to treatment throughout the United States.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Implementation and Sustainability of Safe Consumption Sites: A Qualitative Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis

    Journal: Harm Reduction Journal, 2022, doi: 10.1186/s12954-022-00655-z

    Authors: Grace H. Yoon, Timothy W. Levengood, Melissa J. Davoust, Shannon N. Ogden, Alex H. Kral, Sean R. Cahill & Angela R. Bazzi


    Background: Safe consumption sites (SCSs) serve diverse populations of people who use drugs (PWUD) and public health objectives. SCS implementation began in the 1980s, and today, there are at least 200 known SCSs operating in over twelve countries. While a growing literature supports their effectiveness as a harm reduction strategy, there is limited information on contextual factors that may support or hinder SCS implementation and sustainability. We aimed to fill this gap in knowledge by reviewing existing qualitative studies on SCSs.

    Methods: We conducted a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies. We identified all peer-reviewed, English-language qualitative studies on SCSs containing original data in PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Science Direct as of September 23, 2019. Two authors independently screened, abstracted, and coded content relating to SCS implementation and sustainment aligned with the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment (EPIS) implementation science framework.

    Results: After removing duplicates, we identified 765 unique records, of which ten qualitative studies met inclusion criteria for our synthesis. Across these ten studies, 236 total interviews were conducted. Overall, studies described how SCSs can (1) keep drug use out of public view while fostering a sense of inclusion for participants, (2) support sustainment by enhancing external communities’ acceptability of SCSs, and (3) encourage PWUD utilization. Most studies also described how involving PWUD and peer workers (i.e., those with lived experience) in SCS operation supported implementation and sustainability.

    Discussion: Our thematic synthesis of qualitative literature identified engagement of PWUD and additional factors that appear to support SCS planning and operations and are critical to implementation success. However, the existing qualitative literature largely lacked perspectives of SCS staff and other community members who might be able to provide additional insight into factors influencing the implementation and sustainability of this promising public health intervention.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Knowledge of Predatory Practices within the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Industry: Development of a Measurement Instrument

    Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2022, doi: 10.3390/ijerph19137980

    Authors: Antoinette Y. Farmer, Yuhan Wei, Kristen Gilmore Powell, Peter Treitler, Amal Killawi, David Lardier, N. Andrew Peterson, Suzanne Borys & Donald K. Hallcom


    The increase in predatory practices in the substance use disorder treatment industry calls for the development of measures to assess individuals’ knowledge about these practices.

    Methods: This study describes the development of the Knowledge of Predatory Practices Scale (KPPS), a newly developed measure designed to assess the knowledge of predatory practices within the substance use disorder treatment industry. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to determine the factor structure of this measure.

    Results: The final 11-item KPPS consisted of two factors-knowledge about general predatory practices (9 items) and knowledge about unethical practices (2 items). Overall, these factors explained 61.75% of the total variance. The Cronbach’s alpha for the KPPS was 0.81.

    Conclusions: The KPPS is a reliable measure of knowledge of predatory practices within the substance use disorder treatment industry and can be used as a measurement tool to educate individuals seeking help for their loved ones who are misusing substances.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    July 2022