A Randomized Controlled Trial of Attentional Control Training for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

Angelina Isabella Mellentin*, W. Miles Cox, Javad S. Fadardi, Laila Martinussen, Nicolaj Mistarz, Lotte Skøt, Kristine Rømer Thomsen, Kim Mathiasen, Mia Lichtenstein, Anette Søgaard Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: There is consistent evidence that community and clinical samples of individuals with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) have attentional biases toward alcohol cues. The alcohol attentional control training program (AACTP) has shown promise for retraining these biases and decreasing alcohol consumption in community samples of excessive drinkers. However, there is a lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of ACTP in clinical AUD samples. The main aim of the present study is to investigate whether primary pharmacological and psychological, evidence-based alcohol treatment can be enhanced by the addition of a gamified AACTP smartphone application for patients with an AUD. Design and Methods: The study will be implemented as a randomized controlled trial. A total of 317 consecutively enrolled patients with AUD will be recruited from alcohol outpatient clinics in Denmark. Patients will be randomized to one of three groups upon initiation of primary alcohol treatment: Group A: a gamified AACTP smartphone application + treatment as usual (TAU); Group B: a gamified AACTP sham-control application + TAU; or Group C: only TAU. Treatment outcomes will be assessed at baseline, post-treatment, and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Repeated measures MANOVA will be used to compare the trajectories of the groups over time on alcohol attentional bias, alcohol craving, and drinking reductions. It is hypothesized that Group A will achieve better treatment outcomes than either Group B or Group C. Perspectives: Because attentional bias for alcohol cues is proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed, and these biases are not addressed within current evidence-based treatment programs, this study is expected to provide new evidence regarding the effectiveness of the gamified AACTP in a clinical population. Furthermore, due to promising results found using AACTP in community samples of excessive drinkers, there is a high probability that the AACTP treatment in this study will also be effective, thereby allowing AACTP to be readily implemented in clinical settings. Finally, we expect that this study will increase the effectiveness of evidence-based AUD treatment and introduce a new, low-cost gamified treatment targeting patients with an AUD. Overall, this study is likely to have an impact at the scientific, clinical, and societal levels. Clinical Trial Registration: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05102942?term=NCT05102942&draw=2&rank=1, identifier: NCT05102942.

Original languageEnglish
Article number748848
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 26. Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Mellentin, Cox, Fadardi, Martinussen, Mistarz, Skøt, Rømer Thomsen, Mathiasen, Lichtenstein and Nielsen.


  • add-on treatment
  • alcohol use disorder
  • attentional bias
  • cognitive bias modification
  • randomized clinical trial
  • Stroop task


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