Designing and implementing smartphone application to provide treatment support for young drug abusers

Paper presented at #husITa16 in Seoul, Korea, 29 June 2016.


Lap Wan Man (Hong Kong Playground Association, Macao SAR Government Social Work Bureau, Macao)


Background: Although reported number of drug abusers among adolescents is increasing in Hong Kong and Macau, drug abuse problem, however, seems to go more underground. 51% of drug abusers reported that the locality of drug abuse has changed to home or friends’ home (Macao SAR, 2012). Teenagers and their parents are reluctant to seek help until their situation becomes worst.

Methods: Thus, a group of social workers providing drug abuse prevention and counseling has developed a smart-phone application to extent their service arms to these hidden drug abusers. The project was funded by the Macao SAR Government Social Work Bureau and supported by various NGOs serving the youth at risk and drug abusers in Macau and Hong Kong.
The application is designed to provide information of some commonly abused drugs and their harmful effects to human body, risk assessments (Skinner, 1982), case sharing, videos, existing counseling and supportive service as well as drug prevention activities. Local NGOs, government departments and treatment clinics have been involved as supporting agencies to provide follow-up services upon receiving help-seeking emails from the users.

Results: The tool allows effective use of drug information and program for drug prevention. A survey was conducted, in which, 64 agency users including social workers, teachers, medical professionals and community workers were interviewed. The average rating of the Apps performance in providing updated drug information and their harmful effects reached 7 out of 10. Eighty percent of the users who worked in drug abuse prevention found the tool useful and could facilitate their daily work.

Implications: This project demonstrates the use of new technology as an effective means to enhance the availability, accessibility and collaboration of existing services, especially for the drug-abuse prevention. Innovation and techniques of using technology in motivating drug abusers to tackle their problems will be presented.



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