COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

Digital Health Solutions to Support Women with Addiction During COVID-19: Applying a Gender- and Trauma-Informed Lens

Key Messages

  • Digital health resources for addiction range from mobile applications, web-based screening and brief interventions, and web-based multimedia and multi-module platforms.
  • Overall, empirical investigations including adults who identified as female or women generally revealed positive effects. Mobile and web-based platforms demonstrated therapeutic benefits more consistently than brief interventions.
  • Empirical evaluations rarely assess gender identity or conduct sex- or gender-based analyses; evidence specifically for females or women is therefore weak.
  • Interim resource ratings suggested many resources provide sex or gender specific information, and support empowerment; however, most other principles of gender-informed care are not evident. Most resources upheld several principles of trauma informed care (e.g., strengths-based care); however, others were less represented.

Lay Summary

  • The majority of digital health resources for addiction identified in the academic literature were in one of three formats: mobile education and monitoring applications, web-based screening and brief interventions, and web-based multimedia and multi-module intervention platforms.
  • Studies included a range of sample types and a range of substance use targets. Clinical, community, and university/college student samples were the most common samples (21-34%), and alcohol use (64%) the most frequent target substance.
  • Empirical investigations including adults who identified as female or women generally revealed positive effects. Notably, evidence was more mixed/modest for those interventions that are more restricted in scope (e.g., brief interventions). A substantial proportion of investigations did not assess gender identity or conduct sex- or gender-based analyses, precluding strong inferences about the evidence for the efficacy or effectiveness of these interventions in females or women specifically.
  • Empirical investigations demonstrated clear gaps. Investigations rarely reported gender or trauma history, for example, and follow-up periods were frequently limited. Few empirical investigations (4) were conducted in Canada.
  • Interim ratings of digital health resources for addiction available in Canada suggested that these resources provide sex or gender specific information, and support empowerment at least to some degree; however, the majority of the principles of gender-informed care are not evident in these resources. Interim ratings also suggested that resources uphold several principles of trauma informed care (e.g., safety and trustworthiness, choice, control, and collaboration, and strength-based and skills-building care and empowerment). However, other principles of trauma-informed care were less robustly represented, if at all.

Keywords

  • Addiction
  • Substance misuse
  • Substance use disorder
  • Women
  • Female
  • Trauma
  • Abuse
  • Digital health
  • Web-based treatment
  • eHealth

Author(s)

  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Lena C. Quilty, PhD, CPsych; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
  • Branka Agic, PhD, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Leslie Buckley, MD, FRCPC, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Michelle Coombs, PhD, Jean Tweed Centre
  • Betty-Lou Kristy, Centre for Innovation in Peer Support
  • Jill Shakespeare, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Adrienne Spafford, Addictions Mental Health Ontario

For more information, please contact: Lena C. Quilty, lena.quilty@camh.ca

Related Syntheses

Download

Full PDF

Population

Vulnerable or At-Risk Populations, People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) and Substance Use

Language

To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

Date modified: