Background: Patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) exhibit deficits in various cognitive domains, including executive functioning, working memory, and learning and memory, which impede the effectiveness of conventional AUD treatment and enhance relapse. Mobile health (mHealth) services are promising in terms of delivering cognitive training in gamified versions. So far, studies examining the effects of mHealth-based cognitive training in AUD patients have, however, focused on specific rather than multiple cognitive domains and overlooked the importance of clinical outcomes. Furthermore, research has yet to investigate the acceptability and feasibility of this type of cognitive training. Aims: The aims of this pilot study are to examine (1) whether using smartphone-based, multi-domain cognitive training with gamified elements as part of conventional treatment for AUD indicate effect, and (2) whether the intervention is acceptable and feasible as a part of conventional treatment for AUD. Methods: Patients from the alcohol outpatient clinic, Odense Municipality, Denmark will be invited to participate in the study on a consecutive basis until a total of 60 patients have been recruited. The study will be performed as a combined parallel randomized controlled trial (RCT) and qualitative feasibility study. The patients will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. The intervention group (n = 30) will receive smartphone-based, multi-domain cognitive training with gamified elements together with treatment as usual (TAU). The active control group (n = 30) will receive a sham version of the same cognitive training together with TAU. Cognitive outcomes will be assessed via the training application at baseline and post-treatment. Clinical outcomes will be assessed at baseline, post-treatment, and at 6-month follow-up using the Addiction Severity Index. Furthermore, the 30 patients randomized to the intervention group will be invited to participate in the second phase, that is the feasibility study, at post-treatment. A questionnaire inquiring about the use of mHealth treatment in general will be administered. Further, feedback regarding functionality and meaningfulness of the application in addition to other qualitative aspects relating to the use of the application will be collected. The patients will also be asked to provide suggestions about how to improve and potentially implement the tool. Implications: It is anticipated that this pilot study will provide tentative evidence for the effectiveness of smartphone-based, multi-domain cognitive training as well as information about the usability and feasibility of this type of training, including acceptability and compliance. The study will also contribute with feedback derived from the patients about how to improve and implement the tool. If promising, the findings will be used to plan a large-scale RCT. Since cognitive deficits are not addressed in current treatments for AUD, gamified cognitive training delivered through smartphones may increase the effectiveness of current treatment for AUD as well as introduce more mHealth-based treatment that is both accessible and cost-effective.
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