The Drink Less smartphone app: the project so far | Claire Garnett

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‘Drink Less’ is a smartphone app for iOS devices that aims to help people reduce their alcohol consumption (drinklessalcohol.com) – you can download it here.

It was developed and evaluated by a team of researchers at University College London using evidence and theory from the field of behavioural science.

Smartphone apps have a wide reach and can be provided to many users at a low cost though few have been evaluated. This means there’s little information on whether and how they work. When the Drink Less app was launched in 2016, many of its users agreed to participate in a study and have their anonymous data used for scientific research to test it.

normative-feedbackThe study tested the five separate app modules (you can read more about the app’s different features in a previous UKCTAS blog post) which each focused on a different behaviour change strategy. Nearly 700 users were recruited to the trial and different groups were randomly given either intensive or minimal versions of each of the app modules. The effectiveness of each was then measured by comparing levels of drinking before using the app and after one-month.

On average, over the month following download, people logged-in 12 times and drank four fewer units of alcohol. People who received a more intensive version of a module did not reduce their alcohol consumption significantly more than people who got a less intensive version of the same module. However, combinations of specific modules led to a greater reduction in alcohol consumption where users had the intensive versions of both modules. This evaluation has recently been published and you can read about it in more detail here.

User testimonials

Drink Less seems to be a popular app amongst users. It has been downloaded over 21,000 times and the app consistently appears amongst the top results for the ‘alcohol’ search term on the Apple App Store and has an average 4-star rating (based on 26 ratings as of 23/3/2018).

In addition to that, the researchers at UCL have received a lot of positive feedback about the app, some of which is shared below (with their permission):

Well researched and brilliantly designed. It’s both easy and thorough to track drinking and how it affects all areas your life. It’s designed so it’s not preaching because mostly you capture and listen to your own advice – very individualised and very powerful. A great tool to help consider past consequence and create better future behaviours around use of alcohol.”

dashboard“Excellent app that is so useful. Would definitely recommend it.”

“Lots of these apps around but this one is easy to use, non-judgemental and backed up by theory. Really like it. I was surprised by my results. Tracker, goal setting and ideas about how my drinking compares with others. I was surprised!”

“I would like to thank the developers who have worked on the app – it’s been a real help for me as I had become a seriously habitual drinker – I have now settled into a good routine, limiting my intake to under 14 units/week and only imbibing on Friday and Saturday evenings. I couldn’t have done it without your help, thank you. I have told many friends about my success with the app…it really has proved to be a game changer.”

“I love your app. In 2 weeks it’s helped me understand my consumption and learn to plan which has helped me cut down. I like the fact it’s contributing to wider research too. I’d tried a number of apps that help you monitor your alcohol consumption, most of them I stopped using after a week or two… but that did change when I started to use the Drink Less app. What I learned was that I needed to think ahead and plan when I was going to drink…

I’m never going to stop drinking, I love a glass of wine, but it has stopped me casually drinking without thinking. I now understand that I must have been passively consuming way way too much. You hear that all the time, but nothing made it as tangible as this app… I work in an industry where alcohol plays a large part of the culture, so gaining this understanding helped me manage those work situations where alcohol was central much better.”

“I’ve been participating with your Drink Less App for the last 14 weeks. During which I’ve made significant changes to my drinking consumption and life style. I feel I’m getting back some control over my drinking which was controlling me…my GP has me down as having average consumption at 27 alcohol units per week. It’s been like that for many years. That’s before I found and started working with your Drink Less app. So getting it down to 13 units / wk is something my wife and I are proud of. Thanks again for your help and please keep up the good work.”

Plans for the future

Drink Less is in a good position to be built upon as an already successful app. Initial findings suggest that it has the potential to help excessive drinkers in the UK reduce their alcohol consumption at a low incremental cost per user.

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Next up for the Drink Less app is to create an optimised version based on user feedback and the findings from the screening trial. This research is part of an 18-month project funded by the NIHR SPHR. And as part of this project, a funding application will be submitted for a confirmatory trial to determine whether the Drink Less app can provide an effective alternative to the help people usually receive for alcohol reduction.

All of the related scientific papers on the Drink Less app are available here.

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), the Society for Study of Addiction (SSA), the NIHR School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

The Drink Less app was built by Greg Plumby, Edward Warrender and Chris Pritchard (from Portable Pixels) and Hari Karam Singh.

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Alcohol Policy in Practice | Continuing Professional Development Course | 11th-13th September 2018

Following the successful Alcohol CPD courses held in 2014-2017; we are delighted to announce the line-up for our 2018 course, featuring some exciting new inputs!

This year’s course will feature inputs from Prof. Anna Gilmore and colleagues from the University of Bath, Dr Carol Emslie from Glasgow Caledonian University, Dr James Nicholls from Alcohol Research UK, and Professor Karine Gallopel-Morvan from the EHESP School of Public Health, France. We also welcome the return of highly-rated inputs from leading experts such as Katherine Brown from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Colin Shevills of Balance North East.

What previous participants said:

“Great range of content and world-class speakers. Organisers did an amazing job including looking after us all while we were here. The mix of lectures / Q & As / panel discussions was great. Really worth taking time away from work/home to attend this.”
“Extremely informative course and relevant to current alcohol policy challenges. Good venue, convenient location and lovely setting. Module well organised and brilliant range of speakers.”
“Thank you very much. It was a great privilege to listen and attend this course. Lectures and lecturers were outstanding.”
“Very informative useful training, well worth my time and travel.”
“Wonderful networking opportunity.”
“Thank you for such a brilliant training event – the content was spot on, all the presentations and sessions were really, really good and I came away feeling that I had learned masses: a rich diet of fact and opinion. I can honestly say that I have rarely – if ever – enjoyed such an event quite as much as this one.”

Anyone wishing to gain an in-depth understanding and up to date insight into evidence and innovative practice in alcohol policy in the UK and internationally.
Previous participants have included people working in public health, local and national alcohol policy, or alcohol research; from Iceland to New Zealand.
Places are filling up fast and the early-bird rate applies until Friday 15th June 2018! 

Apply Here!

Nicotine & Tobacco: Current issues, Policy and Practice / 21st – 24th May 2018 / University of Stirling

Building on our previous CPD courses on tobacco control and alcohol policy, the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies is delighted to be offering our Nicotine & Tobacco CPD course at the University of Stirling in 2018!

Please note: If you book on/before 28th February 2018, the cost is: £499, or £649 for students seeking accreditation. 

The course, successfully introduced in 2015, is aimed at professionals working in a range of organisations who are interested in public health and policy in the UK or internationally. In addition to the topics covered at previous tobacco CPDs, this year we will be examining the current, up to date evidence on tobacco harm reduction, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices.

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

• Describe and discuss patterns of tobacco consumption, prevalence and addiction and the rise of e-cigarette use.
• Assess key milestones in tobacco and nicotine policy and the contribution of policy in developing and implementing effective interventions.
• Critically discuss the role of commercial interests, including the tobacco industry, in promoting tobacco use and recent controversies regarding the e-cigarette industry.
• Describe and discuss the range of effective interventions to reduce tobacco use and the place of tobacco harm reduction, including e-cigarettes, in addressing tobacco use.
• Assess the potential impact of current and emerging tobacco control priorities on different population groups, including tobacco harm reduction approaches.
• Discuss principles of media advocacy as applied to current issues in tobacco control.


*NEW FOR 2018*

ADDITIONAL BREAKOUT SESSIONS RELEVANT TO INTERNATIONAL TOBACCO CONTROL!

TAXATION & ILLICIT TOBACCO
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH)
SMOKELESS TOBACCO
Prof. Kamran Siddiqi, University of York
TOBACCO MARKETING
Crawford Moodie, University of Stirling

Upcoming Tobacco & Alcohol courses now taking applications: limited places available!

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“Tobacco Control Interventions”
29th Jan – 2nd Feb 2018
University of Nottingham

Closing date for applications: 16th January 2018

This year we will be discussing important factors in tobacco control including; youth smoking, the role of the tobacco industry, use of mass media for smoking prevention and cessation, smokefree legislation, harm reduction and the neurobiology of nicotine addiction.


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“Alcohol, Problems, Policy & Practice” 
5th – 9th February 2018
Kings College London

Early bird deadline: 21st December 2017

The course is a mixture of blended learning, with face-to-face lectures being held in February 2018. It is open to all UKCTAS researchers as well as students of the MSc in Addiction Studies.


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“Nicotine and Tobacco CPD”
21st – 24th May 2018
University of Stirling

Early bird deadline: 28th February 2018

In addition to the topics covered on our previous tobacco control CPD, we will also be examining in detail the current evidence on tobacco harm reduction, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices.


More information about these courses can be found on our website @ UKCTAS.net

Introducing a new International Workshop: The Ubiquity of Alcohol – 20/09/2017

We are delighted to announce the launch of a brand new international workshop focusing on the ubiquity of alcohol.

Addressing Marketing, Availability and Industry Influence:

Alcohol is no ordinary commodity but its presence and marketing seem ubiquitous. In this workshop, we will explore how policymakers, public health experts and researchers are responding to industry efforts to expand the presence and normality of alcohol in our lives. With inputs from leading international researchers and advocates we will explore alcohol marketing and availability in a digital age; industry manoeuvres, and potential countermeasures.

This years workshop will feature sessions from a variety of speakers including a session on Alcohol Marketing and the loi Évin, which is a French alcohol and tobacco policy that was passed in 1991. In this session Nathan Critchlow from the University of Stirling and Prof Karine Gallopel-Morvan from the EHESP School of Public Health, France will look at consumer marketing of alcohol brands in a digital age, controlling alcohol advertising and lessons learnt from the loi Évin.

We also have inputs from a variety of speakers from a number of organisations that focus on alcohol harm, including Jon Foster from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Alison Douglas & Laura Mahon from Alcohol Focus Scotland.

We are also pleased to announce that Prof. Mike Daube from Curtin University, Australia will be joining us to discuss advocacy on alcohol advertising and the influence of the alcohol industry. To discuss the alcohol industry in more detail we also welcome Prof. Jeff Collin from the University of Edinburgh. Jeff is a regular speaker at the Alcohol Policy in Practice CPD and provides a deep insight into the alcohol industry actions.

The Ubiquity of Alcohol

Location: University of Stirling

Date: Wednesday 20th September

Cost: Standalone workshop cost: £150.00

More informationwww.ukctas.net/ubiquity

This workshop is included in our 4 day Alcohol Policy in Practice CPD course we run every September, to find out more information about this course and it’s content please click here.

 

Congratulations to Suzi Gage for winning the AAAS Early Career Public Engagement Award!

Suzanne Gage, a scientist whose podcast, “Say Why To Drugs,” has received over 264,000 listens, has been chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to receive the 2016 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-09-32-03Gage recently completed her post-doctoral research in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She also founded “Sifting the Evidence,” a blog on The Guardian’s website in which she examines epidemiology, mental health and substance abuse. She is being honored by AAAS for “her evidence-based approach to public engagement activities and targeting audiences who may not be actively seeking science information.”

Gage is a “highly talented, enthusiastic and energetic young researcher who promises to be a real star of the future,” wrote Marcus Munafò, a professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, where Gage was a post-doctoral research associate until December. Through her blog and podcast, Munafò wrote, “Suzi has worked tirelessly to provide information to the general public about the scientific evidence surrounding the effects of recreational drugs.”

Her podcast, which she was inspired to produce after appearing on rapper Scroobius Pip’s podcast, discusses a different recreational drug in each episode. Gage aims to counter misinformation and myths surrounding various substances. Munafò noted that Pip’s involvement in the podcast has helped Gage reach an audience of young adults who might not otherwise receive the information. Pip emphasized that the program is not meant to condone drug use.

“This is not a pro-drugs podcast, this is not anti-drugs podcast,” Pip explained, “this is pro-truth and anti-myth.”

The podcast has topped the Science and Medicine chart in the iTunes store and has received support on Twitter, including from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. It also won the Skeptic Magazine 2016 Ockham Award for Best Podcast. Munafò wrote that the show has also been used by teachers to introduce their students to evidence-based thinking.

Gage has also traveled across the United Kingdom, speaking at “Skeptics in the Pub,” evening events hosted by local organizations to promote critical thinking. She has spoken at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and music festivals in the UK.

She engaged with younger audiences in 2011 by participating in “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here,” an online event where students meet and interact with scientists. The scientists compete with one other, answering questions about science and their research that are provided by students, who then vote for their favorite scientist. Gage won in the “Brain Zone” category and used the winnings to start her podcast.

Gage’s work in public engagement was recognized in 2012, when she won the UK Science Blog Prize, and in 2013, when she received the British Association for Psychopharmacology Public Communication Award. She has also written for The Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

Gage’s recent scientific work in studying the relationship between health behaviors and mental health outcomes has included investigating causal associations from observational studies, with particular emphasis on substance use and mental health. She earned a Master of Science degree in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London in 2005 and a Ph.D. in translational epidemiology from the University of Bristol in 2014. Her research also earned her the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award in 2012. More recently, she received the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco’s 2015 Basic Science Network Travel Award.

The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognize “early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities.” The recipient receives a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize.

The award will be bestowed upon Gage during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

images-duckduckgo-comSuzanne Gage completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Bristol and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She has written for The GuardianThe Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry.

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Alcohol, Problems, Policy and Practice Course returns to King’s College London in February 2017

After a successful launch of the module in February 2016 we are delighted to announce the Alcohol, Problems, Policy and Practice module will return in 2017 to King’s College London. In 2017 we have confirmed a large number of top class speakers to discuss important areas of this public health issue. With topics ranging from alcohol and pregnancy, alcohol marketing and brief interventions, we can guarantee this course is invaluable to anyone working in this area.

 

MAIN AIMS OF THE MODULE:flyer2017amm

• Enhance students’ understanding of research methods by focusing on current research in alcohol policy and interventions.
• Enable critical appraisal of evidence in alcohol policy interventions.
• Explore the role and perspectives of key stakeholders including the alcohol industry and the role of media and marketing in alcohol use.

WHO IS ORGANISING THE COURSE?

This module is coordinated by the Addictions Department at King’s College London jointly with the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) and has been facilitated by Prof. Ann Mcneill, Dr. Niamh Fitzgerald and Dr. Sadie Boniface.

WHO IS PRESENTING?

Leading academics from King’s College London and across the 13 universities in the UKCTAS will present and discuss the latest evidence. Speakers will also include Dr. Matt Egan (LSHTM), Dr. Zarnie Khadjesari (KCL), Prof. Gerard Hastings (Stirling), Prof. Ann McNeill (KCL), Dr. Niamh Fitzgerald (Stirling), Dr. Ben Hawkins (LSHTM) and many others. Many of the inputs have broader public health relevance beyond alcohol, to other health issues such as tobacco, obesity and inequalities. An updated programme will be available later in 2016.

HOW WILL THE COURSE BE STRUCTURED?

The module will be delivered via blended learning with online materials available from January 2017, followed by a week of classroom sessions the week commencing 6th February 2017.

WHO CAN ATTEND?

In 2017 we will be opening the course to UKCTAS affiliated organisations and those working in public health, community safety or a related field. If you are unsure about its suitability for your needs or for information about fees, please contact Dr. Sadie Boniface (sadie.boniface@kcl.ac.uk)

PLACES ARE LIMITED!

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Student numbers are capped at 40 to ensure an effective learning experience and teacher-student ratio.
Early bird discounts apply until 17th November 2016.
Applications will not be taken after 6th January 2017.

More information is available on our website!

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