A motion-activated video game for prevention of substance use disorder relapse in youth: Pilot randomized controlled trial

Lorien C. Abroms, Marc Fishman, Hoa Vo, Shawn C. Chiang, Victoria Somerville, Lawrence Rakhmanov, Michael Ruggiero, Daniel Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Body motion-activated video games are a promising strategy for promoting engagement in and adherence to addiction treatment among youth. Objective: This pilot randomized trial (N=80) investigated the feasibility of a body motion-activated video game prototype, Recovery Warrior 2.0, targeting relapse prevention in the context of a community inpatient care program for youth. Methods: Participants aged 15-25 years were recruited from an inpatient drug treatment program and randomized to receive treatment as usual (control) or game play with treatment as usual (intervention). Assessments were conducted at baseline, prior to discharge, and at 4 and 8 weeks postdischarge. Results: The provision of the game play intervention was found to be feasible in the inpatient setting. On an average, participants in the intervention group played for 36.6 minutes and on 3.6 different days. Participants in the intervention group mostly agreed that they would use the refusal skills taught by the game. Participants in the intervention group reported attending more outpatient counseling sessions than those in the control group (10.8 versus 4.8), but the difference was not significant (P=.32). The game had no effect on drug use at 4 or 8 weeks postdischarge, with the exception of a benefit reported at the 4-week follow-up among participants receiving treatment for marijuana addiction (P=.04). Conclusions: Preliminary evidence indicates that a motion-activated video game for addiction recovery appears to be feasible and acceptable for youth within the context of inpatient treatment, but not outpatient treatment. With further development, such games hold promise as a tool for the treatment of youth substance use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere11716
JournalJMIR Serious Games
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction treatment
  • Marijuana
  • Opioid
  • Technology
  • Video game
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biomedical Engineering


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