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Open Access Publications from the University of California

ReCODE Health

UC San Diego

The Digital Health Landscape in Addiction and Substance Use Research: Will Digital Health Exacerbate or Mitigate Health Inequities in Vulnerable Populations?


Purpose of Review: Novel and emerging digital health technologies are increasingly used in substance use and addiction-related self-management and treatment research. The promise of digital health is exciting, yet there are important factors regarding population characteristics to consider prior to using novel technologies with vulnerable populations. This paper reports a review of scientific literature published between 2015 and early 2020 on the use of digital health strategies in research focused on substance use and addiction in vulnerable populations.

Recent Findings: Using 13 search terms, three databases were screened for published literature meeting specific inclusion criteria. Common themes expressed across the 32 resulting publications included user acceptability, product reliability, and privacy and security concerns.

Summary: Implementation of evidence-based frameworks and guidelines is needed to guide future digital health research in vulnerable populations. Guidance should involve robust evaluations of acceptability, feasibility, and clinically meaningful use of digital health in diverse populations experiencing addiction-related health concerns.

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