NHMRC Funding for app trial to help people reduce their drinking

Monash University and Turning Point Associate Professor Victoria Manning has been awarded an NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant to investigate whether an app can help people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) reduce their drinking.

Associate Professor Manning will lead a team of researchers to conduct a randomised controlled trial of an Alcohol Avoidance Training App (AAT-App), which uses a form of computerised "brain-training" called Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM), to determine whether people with AUD that are not currently accessing addiction treatment can reduce their alcohol consumption.

Regular drinking can sensitise the brain’s reward system to alcohol cues, like sights, sounds, people or places that have become associated with drinking, and this can lead to the development of a cognitive bias to alcohol cues. These cues then subconsciously capture our attention and drive automatic impulses to seek out and consume alcohol as if on ‘autopilot’. AAT-App aims to weaken cognitive bias to alcohol cues so that we can make more conscious choices when it comes to drinking alcohol.

Associate Professor Manning said the team were delighted to receive a CTCS grant for their trial.

"This grant will enable us to conduct the first ever fully-powered double-blind RCT of smartphone-delivered cognitive bias modification with people in the community,” said Associate Professor Manning.

The trial will recruit 1600 participants across Australia with an alcohol use disorder that are not currently in treatment and will require them to complete weekly training sessions taking just a few mins each time for four weeks.

With around one in five Australian adults meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD) during their lifetime, and approximately 90% of Australians now owning a smartphone, the development of smartphone app interventions may address many barriers to help-seeking.

“Given current trends in alcohol consumption, we are in urgent need of low cost, scalable and convenient tools that can help support people wanting to reduce or quit their drinking," Associate Professor Manning said.