Computer program can reduce drinking
Researchers in Wales have developed a way to reduce temptation in heavy drinkers. The drug-free technique also raises serious questions about the dangers of alcohol advertising.
A computer program at the University of Wales, Bangor, can help stop heavy drinkers being distracted by photos of drinks or by seeing alcohol on display in shops. The Alcohol Attention-Control Training program (AACTP) produced a 'significant reduction' in alcohol consumption which was still there three months later.
Miles Cox, professor of the Psychology of Addictive Behaviours at Bangor, said excessive drinkers notice alcohol in their everyday lives - pictures of alcohol, bottles of alcohol in the off-licence window or on the shelves of a supermarket — and that this 'activates automatic thought processes which stimulate them to want a drink and to actually take a drink'.
He said: 'the simple consequence of helping excessive drinkers pay less attention to alcohol in their environment is that they gain more confidence in their ability to control their own behaviour, and then they drink less.'
Among the attractions of the AACTP is that it is drug-free and can be delivered over the internet. A new study is now going ahead using more people. (The original test was only on 100 heavy drinkers.) Professor Cox said: 'after additional research, we hope the health service will begin using the programme.'
The program, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is based on setting goals. For example, an alcoholic drink will appear on the screen surrounded by a colour. The idea is to identify the colour as soon as possible and ignore the drink.
Malehealth editor Jim Pollard said: 'Nobody who has seen the film Ice Cold in Alice in which John Mills, after months in the desert, salivates over a pint of lager can doubt the power of images in making you fancy a drink. If you're a heavy drinker the effect is multiplied. This research suggests that drink advertising and pacakaging is literally driving people to drink.'
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Page updated on December 21st, 2009