Development of app to prevent relapse into substance misuse

Development and testing of a mobile app in collaboration with young adults in treatment for problematic use of alcohol and cannabis. The app is intended as a tool to prevent lapses and relapses to substance use after drug treatment.


The project aims to develop and test the effect of a mobile app as an aftercare intervention of young adults ages 18-30 who are receiving or have received drug use treatment. The focus is preventing relapse to problematic consumption of alcohol and cannabis.


Alcohol and illicit drugs constitute a massive health and societal problem among young adults in Denmark as well as in many other high-income countries. In Denmark, drug use is highest before the age of 24, and young adults’ alcohol use is significantly higher than in other European countries. In the Nordic region, the highest consumption of cannabis among youth is also found in Denmark. Although substance use treatment has undergone positive developments in recent years, there are still many young people who never show up for alcohol and drug treatment, or who experience relapse after their treatment. Up to 50 percent of young people are at risk of experiencing a relapse within a year of treatment. Therefore, there is a need for developing and implementing tools and initiatives that support young people in moving towards recovery, better well-being, and less substance use.

An easily accessible app that supports young adults in reducing the risk of relapse is one of such initiatives.  Mobile apps on smartphones are increasingly used in treatment and have the potential to support people's engagement and focus on maintaining their goals and help them manage high-risk situations for relapse. However, more efforts are needed in the field of drug treatment, involving users as well as technical knowledge in the development of mobile apps to ensure that users find it accessible and easy to use.

The study

The project is the first in Denmark to involve an interdisciplinary research team with experience in drug treatment for young people, clinical psychology, human-computer interaction (HCI), and software engineering, as well as to involve young adults’ perspectives in the development and testing of this type of app.

The project consists of two phases:

1. The design phase, where we develop the design and content of the app in collaboration between researchers and the target group (young adults with problematic alcohol and cannabis use).

2. A randomized pilot study in which we test the app among 90 young people who are completing treatment in alcohol and drug treatment. Recruitment of participants takes place in collaboration with outpatient drug treatment centers in Denmark.

The project started in October 2021 and will end in September 2023.


Trygfonden, Helsefonden, and Center for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University

AU Engineering team, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aarhus University

Brian V. Danielsen, Assistant Professor
Henrik Kirk, Associate Professor

Participating Treatment Centres 

Brydehuset, Ballerup kommune
Horsens kommunes rusmiddelrådgivning, Horsens kommune
KABS City Behandlingscenter, Valby, København
Center for alkohol og stofmisbrug (CAS), Roskilde