Utilization of communication technology by patients enrolled in substance abuse treatment

Erin A. McClure, Shauna P. Acquavita, Emily Harding, Maxine L. Stitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Background: Technology-based applications represent a promising method for providing efficacious, widely available interventions to substance abuse treatment patients. However, limited access to communication technology (i.e., mobile phones, computers, internet, and e-mail) could significantly impact the feasibility of these efforts, and little is known regarding technology utilization in substance abusing populations. Methods: A survey was conducted to characterize utilization of communication technology in 266 urban, substance abuse treatment patients enrolled at eight drug-free, psychosocial or opioid-replacement therapy clinics. Results: Survey participants averaged 41 years of age and 57% had a yearly household income of less than $15,000. The vast majority reported access to a mobile phone (91%), and to SMS text messaging (79%). Keeping a consistent mobile phone number and yearly mobile contract was higher for White participants, and also for those with higher education, and enrolled in drug-free, psychosocial treatment. Internet, e-mail, and computer use was much lower (39-45%), with younger age, higher education and income predicting greater use. No such differences existed for the use of mobile phones however. Conclusions: Concern regarding the digital divide for marginalized populations appears to be disappearing with respect to mobile phones, but still exists for computer, internet, and e-mail access and use. Results suggest that mobile phone and texting applications may be feasibly applied for use in program-client interactions in substance abuse treatment. Careful consideration should be given to frequent phone number changes, access to technology, and motivation to engage with communication technology for treatment purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Digital divide
  • E-mail
  • Internet
  • Mobile phones
  • SMS text messaging
  • Substance abuse treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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