According to Unity Health Toronto, a group of four researchers have recently launched a smartphone app called SPRinG, aimed to support people who struggle with a gambling problem. The app is designed to provide self-management journaling and monitoring tools that can help users better understand their unique gambling patterns and urges. This approach allows researchers to gain insights into this population and assess the viability of a digital solution to problem gambling. The group responsible for spearheading the project consists of Dr. Flora Matheson, a research scientist at St. Michael’s; Dr. Arthur McLuhan, a senior research associate at St. Michael’s; Madison Ford, a research coordinator from the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions; and Dr. Alireza Sadeghian, a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Department of Computer Science.
SPRinG is a user-driven app that offers strategies and solutions derived from the user’s input, from basic support to risk management and beyond. The app’s main function is to catalogue a user’s individual inputs and channel that information into useful, action-inducing data. Once registered, users will complete the Problem Gambling Severity Index and the Gambling Symptom Assessment Scale, both of which are self-assessment screening tools. From there, they will continue these assessments on a regular basis. The app provides users with self-monitoring tools, which allow researchers to view patterns of urge frequency, urge intensity, gambling frequency, and gambling losses over time.
Through this model, participants can learn more about their individual gambling behaviours, identify triggers and high-risk situations, and develop strategies for managing them. The app offers four options to deter users from gambling: engage in a distraction, contact a friend, engage in alternate activities or contact a 24/7 crisis line. However, it is at the discretion of the user to follow these alternatives, although having multiple options may help increase the likelihood that they do.
SPRinG has received financial support from several backers, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institute of Health Research through the Collaborative Health Research Projects Initiative, and the Responsible Gaming Council. The app’s commitment to authoring a service that is not only accessible but also far-reaching drew organizations to SPRinG. According to Dr. Matheson, an app is a tool that can bridge gambling support services and can be accessed outside of normal business hours when a gambling event is likely to occur.
The researchers take pride in their creation, believing that their invention has the power to make meaningful change. They see the app’s main goal as empowering struggling gamblers to take the first steps in treating their addiction.