Using peers to increase veterans' engagement in a smartphone application for unhealthy alcohol use: A pilot study of acceptability and utility

Psychol Addict Behav. 2021 Nov;35(7):829-839. doi: 10.1037/adb0000598. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


Mobile apps can only increase access to alcohol treatment if patients actively engage with them. Peers may be able to facilitate such engagement by providing supportive accountability and instruction and encouragement for app use. We developed a protocol for peers to support engagement in the Stand Down app for unhealthy alcohol use in veterans and tested the acceptability and utility of the protocol. Thirty-one veteran primary care patients who screened positive for unhealthy alcohol use and were not currently in addiction treatment were given access to Stand Down for four weeks and concurrently received weekly phone support from a Department of Veterans Affairs peer specialist to facilitate engagement with the app. App usage was extracted daily, and pre/post treatment assessments measured changes in drinking patterns, via the Timeline Followback interview, and satisfaction with care, via quantitative and qualitative approaches. A priori benchmarks for acceptability were surpassed: time spent in the app (M = 93.89 min, SD = 92.1), days of app use (M = 14.05, SD = 8.0), and number of daily interviews completed for tracking progress toward a drinking goal (M = 12.64, SD = 9.7). Global satisfaction, per the Client Satisfaction Questionnaire, was high (M = 26.4 out of 32, SD = 4.5). Pre to post, total standard drinks in the prior 30 days (MPre = 142.7, MPost = 85.6), Drinks Per Drinking Day (MPre = 5.4, MPost = 4.0), and Percent Heavy Drinking Days (MPre = 35.3%, MPost = 20.1%) decreased significantly (ps < .05). Findings indicate that Peer-Supported Stand Down is highly acceptable to veteran primary care patients and may help reduce drinking in this population. A larger controlled trial of this intervention is warranted. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Peer Group
  • Pilot Projects
  • Smartphone
  • Veterans*