A systematic review of technology-assisted interventions for co-morbid depression and substance use

Nicola Holmes, Joep Van Agteren, Diana Dorstyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Mental health interventions disseminated via, or accessed using, digital technologies are an innovative new treatment modality for managing co-morbid depression and substance use disorder. The present systematic review assessed the current state of this literature.

A search of the Cochrane Library, Embase, Pubmed, PsychINFO and Scopus databases identified six eligible studies (Nparticipants = 862), utilising quasi-experimental or randomised controlled designs. Reporting quality was evaluated and Hedge’s g effect sizes (with 95% confidence intervals and p-values) were calculated to determine treatment effectiveness. Process outcomes (e.g. treatment satisfaction, attrition rates) were also examined.

Quality ratings demonstrated high internal validity, although external validity was low. Effect size data revealed medium to large and short-term improvements in severity of depression and substance use symptoms in addition to global improvement in social, occupational and psychological functioning. Longer-term treatment effectiveness could not be established, due to the limited available data. Preliminary findings suggest that there was high client satisfaction, therapeutic alliance and client engagement.

Mobile phone devices and the Internet can help to increase access to care for those with mental health co-morbidity. Large-scale and longitudinal research is, however, needed before digital mental healthcare becomes standard practice. This includes establishing critical therapeutic factors including optimum levels of assistance from clinicians.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Telemedicine and Telecare
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2018


  • Depression
  • substance use
  • Ehealth
  • systematic review

Cite this