New app helping to curb alcohol consumption

alcohol and drug issues

Developed by addiction specialists at Turning Point and Monash University, the SWiPE app is helping people curb their alcohol consumption.

The gamified app uses a novel form of personalised ‘brain training’ known as approach bias modification (ApBM) to train the brain to disengage from alcohol-related cues that trigger the desire to drink.

The app works by getting users to ‘push away’ (avoid) their favourite alcoholic drinks and ‘pull’ (approach) positive images that relate to their personal goals or values.

A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research into the effectiveness of the app reveals that using the app helped to reduce weekly alcohol consumption by 8.4 standard drinks on average.

The study also reveals using the app helped to reduce the number of drinking days and the alcohol dependence severity score.

Participants also reported significant reductions in craving immediately after each training session, as well as over the course of the four-week training with the app.

“Many people experiencing alcohol-related problems face barriers when it comes to accessing treatment, such as fear of stigma, lack of time, or geographical distance. Having access to a smartphone-delivered intervention such as SWiPE could help people manage cravings whenever they arise,” says Associate Professor Victoria Manning who led the team that developed and trialled the app.

“Our research looked at people aged 18-75 who wanted to reduce or cease their drinking and who met criteria for hazardous alcohol use.

“We found that only 9% were actually seeking treatment despite 60% meeting criteria for alcohol dependence.

“One-third of participants also lived in regional, remote or very remote areas where treatment services are typically more difficult to access, and geographic disadvantage is more common.

“The results from the trial are very promising.

“Establishing the efficacy of SWiPE is a critical next step. Given it is low-cost, easy to implement, highly accessible and scalable, the app could address a significant gap between the demand for treatment and the availability of addiction treatment services,” continues. Associate Professor Manning.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug globally and with almost 90% of Australians now owning a smartphone, app-based interventions like SWiPE could play a key role in reducing alcohol-related harm.