New Test to Help Heavy Drinkers Reduce Alcohol Intake
Long term alcohol abuse affects lives in a number of ways. It not only triggers various physical symptoms and heart diseases but also causes a wide range of immunological defects and mental health problems.
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For those alcohol addicts who are trying to reduce their alcohol consumption, researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed a computer-based test that will support people in this initiative.
Research at Liverpool has shown that the habit of consuming alcohol can be interrupted when people practice methods of restraint whenever they see images of alcoholic drinks.
The new test that has been developed by the researchers at Liverpool required participants to press a particular button when an image of alcohol or soft drink appeared on screen. Later they were asked to perform the same task at a speed and were asked to stop the moment they heard a tone.
In one group the team presented the tone at the same time as alcohol pictures appeared on screen, and in another group the tone was not matched to images of alcoholic drinks.
After this task the participants were given the option of drinking beer. The researchers found that participants who learned to exercise restraint when alcohol images were shown subsequently drank less beer than the control group that did not practice the same method.
With this discovery the team aims to develop the computer intervention for online use as part of a wider Medical Research Council (MRC) project.
Professor Matt Field from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: "It is thought that people who drink alcohol at unsafe levels do so because drinking behaviour has become an over-learned habit that they perform without really thinking about it. Similar to the practiced activity of brushing your teeth in the morning, a person may regularly drink a few glasses of wine with their evening meal.
"This kind of habit can lead to serious health problems, and in extreme cases, alcohol dependence."
"We wanted to investigate whether a person could learn to apply self-control automatically, in the hope that this might override the ingrained habit of drinking alcohol. We found that if participants repeatedly exercised self-control in response to images of alcoholic drinks, they drank less alcohol when the opportunity was later offered to them in the laboratory.
"We hope to develop this computer intervention to see whether people can use the intervention, outside of the laboratory environment, in their daily lives. This may take the form of an online activity to support those people who want to reduce their intake of alcohol."
The research is published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology