The iCanQuit app teaches people to observe, acknowledge, and accept their cravings to smoke rather than avoid them, and use life values such as religiosity, spirituality, family, and collectivism as motivation to quit. A study published in Addiction examined whether this smartphone app has the potential to address the disparity in smoking cessation rates between Black adults and the rest of the general population.

The recent (2021) UK Drug Strategy noted the growing role of digital therapies in addiction treatment. Smartphone apps, for example, can remotely teach users an evidence-based approach to quitting, incorporate interactive tools and features to keep them engaged long-term, and be available to them 24/7.

Interested in digital therapies?

The SSA’s Rob Calder talked to Dr Olga Perski about her recent research on just-in-time adaptive interventions whereby smartphones are used to help prevent lapses among people who are trying to quit or reduce alcohol, tobacco or other drug use. Dr Perski also discussed the challenges of regulating mobile health apps so that people can access apps based on evidence of effectiveness.

The challenges about registering and accrediting digital interventions were recently discussed in an Addiction Opinion and Debate (Volume 116, Issue 12).

A new analysis, recently published in Addiction, looked at the effectiveness of the iCanQuit app, which uses acceptance and commitment therapy to help people quit smoking. The study focused on smoking cessation outcomes among 554 self-identified Black adults from 34 US states who smoked daily.

Smoking is a major health problem among Black or African American adults, but there are relatively few tools tailored to help them quit. Compared with the general US population, Black adults who smoke are less likely to quit, have more difficulty quitting, and are less likely to seek treatment.

The results were positive; the iCanQuit smartphone application was more effective than a more conventional smartphone application (QuitGuide) at helping Black adults who smoke to quit and remain abstinent over 12 months.

Participants who smoked daily and used iCanQuit had greater odds of quitting cigarette smoking after 3, 6, and 12-months than QuitGuide users. The odds of staying stopped at 12 months was 2.86 times higher among iCanQuit than QuitGuide participants. iCanQuit participants were also significantly more engaged with the application, as measured by the number of logins from baseline to 6 months (an average of 30.9 times for iCanQuit vs. 9.7 for QuitGuide).

The authors noted that the study was not culturally-tailored to Black adults, however, the study may be “an important step in identifying an existing tool that could be culturally adapted and tested in a future trial”.

Original article: Efficacy and utilization of an acceptance and commitment therapy-based smartphone application for smoking cessation among Black adults: secondary analysis of the iCanQuit randomized trial. By Margarita Santiago-Torres and colleagues. Published in Addiction (2021).

by Rob Calder and Natalie Davies

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