Electronic Interventions for Cannabis Use Have Small Effects

Electronic interventions have been developed to target substance use, but little is known about their efficacy for cannabis use. This systematic review and meta-analysis identified randomized controlled trials that tested CD-ROM, internet, or computer-based interventions for addressing unhealthy cannabis use.

  • Four studies met inclusion criteria (one from the US, one from Australia and Oceania, and 2 from Europe) with a total of 1928 participants (general population and adolescent college students).
  • All interventions were web-based.
  • Intervention was associated with 4 fewer days of self-reported cannabis use over the past 30 days (a small pooled standardized effect size of 0.11).
  • The intervention with the greatest treatment effect was a web-based online chat with a trained psychotherapist in addition to an online diary, weekly personalized feedback, and written feedback based on cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.


This study found evidence of efficacy for electronic interventions targeting cannabis use, but the observed treatment effects were small. Often-cited advantages of electronic interventions are that they can be made available 24/7 and do not rely on extensive health professional resources. Nevertheless, in this review the intervention with the greatest treatment effect offered an online chat with a trained psychotherapist, a feature that shares with face-to-face interventions some limitations in terms of resources and training of providers.

Nicolas Bertholet, MD, MSc


Hoch E, Preuss UW, Ferri M, Simon R. Digital interventions for problematic cannabis users in non-clinical settings: findings from a systematic review and meta-analysisEur Addict Res. 2016;22:233–242.

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