An Online Relapse Prevention Tool for Adolescent Substance Abusers


Project Info

Project Description

ID: HHSN271201400075C
TERM: 09/14 – 09/17

Gaming technologies offer an innovative way to advance substance abuse treatment and relapse prevention. Computer game-based aftercare may represent the next step in relapse prevention for adolescents. The enhanced motivation and engagement associated with game play should translate into greater investment and practice time, and in turn, result in significant functional gains for adolescents. Active participation with interactive training software has been found to dramatically increase engagement and skill development beyond passive instructional methods (Boyer et al., 2008). The hands-on experience and practice in virtual environments can effectively support instructional objectives, particularly for more complex skills such as coping and navigation of high-risk situations (Corbett, Koedinger, & Hadley, 2001). Further, engaging multiple sensory modes (visual, auditory, experiential) during training enhances the software’s ability to reach different types of learners and to promote greater retention and applicability of presented information over time (Gordon, 2004; VanLehn, et al., 2005).

This Phase II project will yield a novel, dynamic e-training software product through which adolescents in substance abuse recovery can receive adaptive relapse prevention education and aftercare support. The proposed project will accomplish four technical objectives: (1) fully develop the program software, incorporating feedback from iterative testing with expert consultants, to include six modules comprising introductory and closing modules as well as four coping skills modules with instructional lessons, interactive practice exercises, and skill-building games; (2) develop a web-based Help Center featuring both a User Guide and a Parent/Provider Guide to provide support and training; (3) conduct a two-month staggered-entry RCT Pilot Clinical Study with nine adolescents in substance abuse recovery to evaluate the benefits and effectiveness of the program; and (4) finalize the program for broad-scale commercial release based on findings and evaluations from the pilot study. It is expected that adolescents in the pilot test will find the program to be easy to use and engaging, as well as demonstrate improvements across all outcome areas assessed, synchronized with staggered access to the program.