Developing and testing internet-based interventions (IBIs) for substance use in youth


The popularity of online and mobile technology has given rise to a new and efficacious form of treatment for problematic health behaviours, including substance use and related problems. Internet-based interventions (IBIs) have proven effective in a number of randomized, controlled trials, and offer promise for addressing substance use issues among young Ontarians in both urban and rural settings.

IBIs are structured, interactive tools that provide screening, information and education, exercises and activities, personalized feedback, and social networking functions. IBIs can be used independently or with other forms of treatment and support, and offer both confidentiality and accessibility, especially in terms of their low cost, geographic convenience, ability to offer treatment in multiple languages, and inclusion of features to accommodate people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments..


The ultimate goal of the IBI Project is to identify one or more IBIs that target substance use among youth aged 12-24 and that are suitable for the Ontario context.


Through ongoing collaboration with youth, family members, service providers, government, and community partners, our objectives are to:

  • Review the evidence base and existing options for IBI in youth with substance use problems and/or co-occurring substance use and mental health problems.
  • Develop a comprehensive resource to help service providers make informed decisions when selecting appropriate internet-based interventions for youth.

First, we will search for existing IBI options by reviewing the relevant scientific literature. The IBIs of primary interest for this review will be designed to treat substance use problems, including problematic prescription drug use. However, given the common existence of substance use problems together with mental health concerns, a secondary focus will be placed on IBIs to treat substance use co-occurring with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anger management, or combinations of these.

Once the review of the literature is completed, we will consult with project stakeholders to develop an online resource for guiding service providers in their decision-making around internet-based interventions. This resource will be pilot-tested with service providers to determine the effectiveness, utility and feasibility of its use.

Value to the Mental Health and Addictions System

Since a large number of IBI options exist, varying greatly in quality and price, selecting an appropriate IBI can be an overwhelming task for service providers. The production of a comprehensive, stakeholder-informed resource that identifies formally evaluated IBIs, and that offers insight into their effectiveness and reception, will help service providers to save time and make evidence-informed decisions about incorporating IBIs into their service delivery.

This project is made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada. © 2015 EENet.

Project Contact: 

Project leads

Karen Urbanoski, PhD, Collaborating Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Scientist, Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health & Social Policy, University of Victoria.
Gloria Chaim, MSW, RSW, Head, Community Engagement & Partnerships, Margaret & Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health, Associate Director, Child Youth and Family Services, CAMH; Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.
Joanna Henderson, PhD, C.Psych, Director, Margaret & Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health; Clinician Scientist & Head of Research, Child, Youth & Family Services, CAMH; Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.
For more information contact Andrew Posen, MPH, Project Coordinator, andrew [dot] posen [at] camh [dot] ca.

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