Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for global disease burden and overconsumption leads to a wide variety of negative consequences in everyday life. Digital interventions have shown small positive effects in contributing to reductions in problematic use. Specific research on smartphone apps is sparse and the few studies published indicate effects ranging from negative or null to small or moderate. TeleCoach™, a web-based skills training smartphone app, has shown positive effects in non-treatment-seeking university students with excessive drinking. This pilot trial aimed to evaluate app effects in a sample of internet help-seekers from the general population in Sweden. A total of 89 participants were recruited via online advertisement. Following baseline assessment for hazardous use, they were randomized to TeleCoach or a web-based control app offering brief information and advice regarding problematic alcohol use. The primary outcome was number of standard drinks per week; secondary outcomes included drinking quantity and frequency, binge drinking and blood alcohol count measures as well as app user data and comorbidity related to depression, anxiety, and drug use. Analysis of baseline and 6-week follow-up outcomes showed significant within-group effects on alcohol consumption but no significant between-group differences. Effect sizes for the within-group changes in the primary outcome over time were significant [F(1, 55)=43.98; p < 0.001], with a Cohen's d of 1.37 for the intervention group and 0.92 for the control group. This difference in effect sizes indicated that continuation of the study as a large randomized, controlled trial with up to 1,000 participants could be worthwhile.
Clinical Trial Registration: www.ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier NCT03696888.