Review of Popularity and Quality Standards of Opioid-Related Smartphone Apps.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Purpose of review: Opioid misuse, addiction, and related harm is a global crisis that affects public health and social and economic welfare. Many of the strategies being used to combat the opioid crisis could benefit from improved access and dissemination, such as that afforded by smartphone apps. The goal of this study was to characterize the purpose, audience, quality and popularity of opioid-related smartphone apps. Using web scraping, available information from 619 opioid-related apps (e.g., popularity metrics) was downloaded from Google Play, and 59 apps met criteria for review. The apps were additionally coded for quality by two raters using an 8-item screener for the American Psychiatric Association App Evaluation Model. Findings: Sixty one percent of apps targeted patients, 29% providers, 8% the general community, and 2% healthcare trainees. Regarding app purpose, 49% addressed treatment, 27% prevention, and 24% overdose. Only one app met all criteria on the screener for quality, and there was no association between a total score calculated for the screener and measures of app popularity (e.g., star ratings; R2=0.10, p=0.19). Summary: Opioid-related apps available for consumers addressed key stakeholders (patients, providers, community) and were consistent with strategies to address the opioid crisis (prevention, treatment, overdose). However, there was little evidence that available opioid-related apps meet basic quality standards, and no relationship was found between app quality and popularity. This review was conducted at the level of consumer decision-making (i.e., the app store), where only a handful of opioid-related apps met quality standards enough to warrant a more detailed evaluation of the app before recommendation for use. Because smartphone apps could be a critical tool to increase access to and utilization of opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery services, further development and testing is sorely needed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vilardaga, R; Fisher, T; Palenski, PE; Kumaresan, V; Mannelli, P; Sweitzer, MM; McClernon, FJ; Engelhard, MM; Sabo, PL; Garrison, KA

Published Date

  • December 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 7 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 486 - 496

PubMed ID

  • 33777644

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7993400

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2196-2952

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s40429-020-00344-6


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Switzerland