Intended for healthcare professionals


Digital tools and apps to reduce alcohol use

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 16 August 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1665

Linked Research

Effect of a smartphone intervention as a secondary prevention for use among university students with unhealthy alcohol use

  1. Sadie Boniface, head of research1 2,
  2. Emma Davies, reader3
  1. 1Institute of Alcohol Studies, Alliance House, London, UK
  2. 2Addictions Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. King’s College London, London, UK
  3. 3Centre for Psychological Research, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to: S Boniface sboniface{at}

A scalable intervention as part of a wider strategy to reduce and prevent alcohol harm

Europe has the highest levels of alcohol use in the world1 and a wide variety of evidence based policies and interventions are already available to reduce harm from alcohol.2

Prevention of ill health has the potential for the biggest health gains as well as financial return on investment. In a linked paper, Bertholet and colleagues report findings from their trial that investigated use of a smartphone app to reduce alcohol consumption in students.3

Prevention can be categorised in three ways: primary prevention, which for alcohol can include population level interventions such as taxation; secondary prevention, including brief interventions such as the app tested by Bertholet and colleagues; and tertiary prevention, which includes relapse prevention. A comprehensive approach to preventing alcohol harm involves a range of stakeholders from within and beyond healthcare systems. In England, for example, we have been in a “cycle of rhetoric about prevention”,4 but actions are yet to match the scale of the health, healthcare, and equity challenges that we face. Further evidence from high quality randomised trials such as this study is very welcome, especially as healthcare increasingly becomes digital.

Bertholet and colleagues tested a …

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