Telemedicine-Delivered Treatment Interventions for Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review

Lewei Allison Lin
Danielle Casteel
Erin Shigekawa
Meghan Soulsby Weyrich
Dylan H. Roby
Sara B. McMenamin
Peer-Reviewed Article
March 2019


Telehealth may address barriers to accessing substance use disorder (SUD) interventions and is a promising alternative to in-person treatment.


SUD rates have significantly grown in recent years in the United States, leading to adverse outcomes including overdose. Despite an increased need for care, the rates of treatment penetration have remained low due to limited and disparate access to evidence-based treatments as well as provider shortages. Telemedicine to deliver SUD treatment has the potential to increase access to care. This systematic review examines the effectiveness of videoconferencing interventions for individuals with SUD.


This review evaluated 13 studies on interventions for nicotine, alcohol, and opioid use disorder that used synchronous videoconferencing for psychotherapy and medication treatments. While more high-quality evidence is needed, multiple studies suggested that telemedicine was associated with improved treatment retention over in-person interventions that required traveling to appointments. Studies also suggested that telemedicine interventions are feasible and acceptable across a range of SUD care settings and found that patient satisfaction with telehealth was comparable for in-person treatment.


Telemedicine for SUD interventions may help to address barriers to access and increase the use of evidence-based treatment, and stakeholders can apply this systematic review when assessing the evidence base for telehealth SUD treatment interventions.

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