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Evaluating the Efficacy of a Mobile App (Drinks:Ration) and Personalized Text and Push Messaging to Reduce Alcohol Consumption in a Veteran Population: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

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  • Daniel Leightley
  • Roberto J Rona
  • James Shearer
  • Charlotte Williamson
  • Cerisse Gunasinghe
  • Amos Simms
  • Nicola T Fear
  • Laura Goodwin
  • Dominic Murphy
Article numbere19720
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/10/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>JMIR Research Protocols
Issue number10
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Alcohol misuse is higher in the UK Armed Forces than in the general population. Previous research has shown that interventions delivered via smartphones are efficacious in promoting self-monitoring of alcohol use, have utility in reducing alcohol consumption, and have a broad reach.

This single-blinded randomized controlled trial (RCT) aims to assess the efficacy of a 28-day brief alcohol intervention delivered via a smartphone app (Drinks:Ration) in reducing weekly self-reported alcohol consumption between baseline and 3-month follow-up among veterans who drink at a hazardous or harmful level and receive or have received support for mental health symptoms in a clinical setting.

In this two-arm, single-blinded RCT, a smartphone app that includes interactive features designed to enhance participants’ motivation and personalized messaging is compared with a smartphone app that provides only government guidance on alcohol consumption. The trial will be conducted in a veteran population that has sought help through Combat Stress, a UK veteran’s mental health charity. Recruitment, consent, and data collection will be carried out automatically through the Drinks:Ration platform. The primary outcome is the change in self-reported weekly alcohol consumption between baseline (day 0) and 3-month follow-up (day 84) as measured using the Time-Line Follow back for Alcohol Consumption. Secondary outcome measures include (1) change in the baseline to 3-month follow-up (day 84) Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test score and (2) change in the baseline to 3-month follow-up (day 84) World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF score to assess the quality of adjusted life years. Process evaluation measures include (1) app use and (2) usability ratings as measured by the mHealth App Usability Questionnaire. The primary and secondary outcomes will also be reassessed at the 6-month follow-up (day 168) to assess the longer-term benefits of the intervention, which will be reported as a secondary outcome.

The study will begin recruitment in October 2020 and is expected to require 12 months to complete. The study results will be published in 2022.

This study assesses whether a smartphone app is efficacious in reducing self-reported alcohol consumption in a veteran population that has sought help through Combat Stress using personalized messaging and interactive features. This innovative approach, if successful, may provide a means to deliver a low-cost health promotion program that has the potential to reach large groups, in particular those who are geographically dispersed, such as military personnel.