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Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction

SMS-Aftercare for inpatient addiction therapy

Summary Review of the acceptance and effectiveness of a SMS-supported follow up program after inpatient addiction therapy. Randomized controlled study with control and intervention group
Project manager(s) Susanne Schaaf
Duration 02.2017 - 03.2020
Client / Funding partner(s) Federal Office of Public Heatlh (FOPH)
Cooperating partner(s) Participating therapy facilities


SMS-based follow up programmes have proven their worth in various therapeutic and preventive areas (eating disorders, alcohol withdrawal, tobacco prevention). The accessibility through SMS communication can help to reduce relapses. The low-threshold nature of the programme is attractive for participants. SMS-based aftercare is also cost-effective. During the programme Counsellors are in periodic contact with former clients and thus have the ability (in the intervention group) to strengthen the sustainability of inpatient therapy by actively contacting them in case of risk situations.


The aim of the clinical study is to assess the acceptance of the SMS follow up programme among the former clients and caregivers involved and to compare the two study groups (control and intervention group) with regard to their effectiveness in preventing relapses regarding the following substances: opiates, cocaine, alcohol and cannabis.


Clients who meet the inclusion criteria and agree to participate are randomly assigned to one of the two study groups when they leave therapy. The control group with minimal intervention regularly receives fully automatically generated, standardized SMS messages after withdrawal. The messages contain questions on the following topics: maintaining abstinence, controlled drinking, standardized motivation and reward, as well as coping strategies. In case a specific goal is not reached, persons of the control group will receive a contact address. The intervention group receives semi-automated, individualised SMS messages with questions about maintaining their abstinence goal or their goal of controlled drinking. In addition, the participants in the intervention group receive individualized motivation and rewards, as well as coping strategies. In the event that a specific goal is not fulfilled, persons of the intervention group are contacted via telephone by the participating institution to discuss suitable support steps. The SMS follow-up is available for 6 months after leaving the institution. Interventions take place weekly during the first two months and after that every two weeks. At the end of the intervention phase, the consumption behaviour and experiences of the former clients are recorded. The participating institutions are alcohol and drug therapy institutions in German-Speaking Switzerland.

Value of the project

The findings of the SMS aftercare study show the feasibility and effectiveness of two SMS follow up intervention types after inpatient addiction therapy. It is expected that individualised intervention will be more effective in preventing relapse than standardised intervention.


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