Alcohol Avoidance Training as a Mobile App for Problem Drinkers: Longitudinal Feasibility Study

JMIR mHealth and uHealth(2020)

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BackgroundAlcohol use is associated with an automatic tendency to approach alcohol, and the retraining of this tendency (cognitive bias modification [CBM]) shows therapeutic promise in clinical settings. To improve access to training and to enhance participant engagement, a mobile version of alcohol avoidance training was developed. ObjectiveThe aims of this pilot study were to assess (1) adherence to a mobile health (mHealth) app; (2) changes in weekly alcohol use from before to after training; and (3) user experience with regard to the mHealth app. MethodsA self-selected nonclinical sample of 1082 participants, who were experiencing problems associated with alcohol, signed up to use the alcohol avoidance training app Breindebaas for 3 weeks with at least two training sessions per week. In each training session, 100 pictures (50 of alcoholic beverages and 50 of nonalcoholic beverages) were presented consecutively in a random order at the center of a touchscreen. Alcoholic beverages were swiped upward (away from the body), whereas nonalcoholic beverages were swiped downward (toward the body). During approach responses, the picture size increased to mimic an approach movement, and conversely, during avoidance responses, the picture size decreased to mimic avoidance. At baseline, we assessed sociodemographic characteristics, alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, use of other substances, self-efficacy, and craving. After 3 weeks, 37.89% (410/1082) of the participants (posttest responders) completed an online questionnaire evaluating adherence, alcohol consumption, and user satisfaction. Three months later, 19.03% (206/1082) of the participants (follow-up responders) filled in a follow-up questionnaire examining adherence and alcohol consumption. ResultsThe 410 posttest responders were older, were more commonly female, and had a higher education as compared with posttest dropouts. Among those who completed the study, 79.0% (324/410) were considered adherent as they completed four or more sessions, whereas 58.0% (238/410) performed the advised six or more training sessions. The study identified a significant reduction in alcohol consumption of 7.8 units per week after 3 weeks (95% CI 6.2-9.4, P
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