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Smartphone for the smarter delivery of drugs, psychoeducational materials and acute intervention for at-risk users
  1. Melvyn W Zhang,
  2. Roger C Ho
  1. Biomedical Institute of Global Healthcare Research and Technology (BIGHEART), National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melvyn Zhang, Biomedical Institue of Global Healthcare Research and Technology (BIGHEART), National University of Singapore, Singapore 119054, Singapore; melvynzhangweibin{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Globally, there has been an increasing incidence of drug abuse. Perhaps one of the reasons for the increased incidences of drug usage might be due to the normalisation of drug usage, as drugs, including cannabis, have been legalised for medical usage in states such as Colorado. In the past decade, there have been massive advances in technology, to the extent that the WHO now classifies E-health as an integral part of healthcare. Healthcare professionals are increasingly using technology and smartphone interventions in their practice. Aside from healthcare professionals, the general public has also been using various smartphone applications for a multitude of purposes. While there are numerous healthcare applications out there, one of the main concerns pertains to the evidence base and quality of the information contained within the application. Previous content analysis conducted on cannabis-related application has shown that they are of poor evidence base. With these limitations in mind, the authors set out to conceptualise and devise a psychoeducational drug application using the latest advances in technologies. The authors wish to tap on the latest advances in smartphone technologies to implement a help functionality for users who might need to seek urgent medical help after being intoxicated with drugs.

  • Medical Apps
  • mHealth
  • Psychiatry

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Video feature

Globally, there has been an increasing incidence of drug abuse. Perhaps one of the reasons for the increased incidences of drug usage might be due to the normalisation of drug usage, as drugs, including cannabis, have been legalised for medical usage in states such as Colorado.1 However, it should be noted that ever since the legalisation of drugs such as cannabis for purported therapeutic purposes, there has not only been an increased incidence of dispensing license issued, but also an increased incidence of individuals presenting to the emergency settings following an acute intoxication of substances.1 In addition, young children are also at risk due to accidental consumption of these drugs.2 In the past decade, there have been massive advances in technology, to the extent that the WHO now classifies E-health as an integral part of healthcare. Healthcare professionals are increasingly using technology and smartphone interventions in their practice. Aside from healthcare professionals, the general public has also been using various smartphone applications for a multitude of purposes. While there are numerous healthcare applications out there, one of the main concerns pertains to the evidence base and quality of the information contained within the application. Previous content analysis conducted on cannabis-related application has shown that they are of poor evidence base.3 In particular, it should be noted that most of the applications were recreational in nature, and it was purported that these applications might be responsible for the changing perception of youths towards drugs such as cannabis. The authors3 highlighted that smartphone applications addressing addiction issues and cessation were under-represented in the current application stores.

With these limitations in mind, the authors set out to conceptualise and devise a psychoeducational drug application using the latest advances in technologies. Prior research4 ,5 has highlighted how simple screening and brief intervention and psychoeducation could potentially be powerful tools in addressing addictive behaviours. Making use of cross-platform programming techniques, the authors have conceptualised the ‘Say No to Drugs’ application. In the application, videos about the common side effects experienced after the consumption of drugs are included. In addition, the authors have made use of animation and infographics to better communicate key messages about drugs to individuals. Within the application, the authors have included other functionality such as a well-being tracker, with which users can track their daily mood. They can also log down key triggers in the journal within the application. One of the key innovative functions of the application is the use of a map. Employing the smartphone's inherent global positioning sensor, the map is able to precisely pinpoint the location of the users. If they are intoxicated using particular drugs and need help, medical services within 20 km from their current location will be highlighted on screen. If they are unable to get access to these services by themselves, they can contact their loved ones or friends for assistance. Within the map, various clinical service locations around the world are being pre-programmed, and hence the usage of the application will not be limited to a local setting. In addition, there is inclusion of a generalised validated questionnaire about drug usage in the application to help screen and identify at-risk users (figures 16) (see online supplementary video 1).

Figure 1

Overview of functionality of the Say No to Drugs App and integrated infographics.

Figure 2

Overview of video functionality.

Figure 3

Overview of mood tracker.

Figure 4

Overview of journal function.

Figure 5

Overview of map function.

Figure 6

Overview of help function.

References

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Footnotes

  • Twitter Follow Melvyn Zhang at @melvynzhang

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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