The effectiveness of telephone counselling in the treatment of illicit drug and alcohol use concerns

Peter Gates, Lucy Albertella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Technology-assisted substance use interventions such as ‘high-tech’ internet-based treatments are thought to be effective; however, the relatively ‘low-tech’ use of telephone counselling does not yet have an established evidence base. This paper reviews the literature including articles with information on the use of telephone counselling for the treatment of illicit drug or alcohol use. Methods: A systematic literature search using a set of telephone counselling and substance-related terms was conducted across four electronic databases. English studies prior to June 2014 that involved the use of telephone counselling with the treatment of illicit drug or alcohol use as a primary or secondary outcome were included. Review papers, opinion pieces, letters or editorials, case studies, published abstracts, and posters were excluded. In all, 94 publications were included in the review. Results and discussion: The literature was supportive of telephone counselling for the treatment of alcohol use in the short term; however, literature regarding illicit drug use was particularly scarce. The generalisability of findings was limited by evident methodological issues in the included studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-85
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Telemedicine and Telecare
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • helplines
  • Substance use
  • telehealth
  • telephone counselling
  • treatment

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