Effectiveness of an app-based intervention to reduce substance use, gambling, and digital media use in vocational school students: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2022 Apr 8;23(1):277. doi: 10.1186/s13063-022-06231-x.


Background: Substance-related and addictive disorders are among the most common mental disorders in adolescence and young adulthood. Vocational school students are a risk group for problematic substance use and addictive behavior. However, the availability of evidence-based prevention concepts and programs is underdeveloped in the vocational school setting.

Methods/design: A two-arm cluster randomized waitlist-controlled trial will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of an app-based intervention to decrease substance use, gambling, and digital media use in vocational school students in Germany. Vocational students will participate in an app-based intervention that is designed to support voluntary commitment to abstain from or reduce substance or digital media use over a period of 2 weeks. The "education-as-usual" control arm will have access to the intervention after data collection is completed. One of the primary outcome measures will be the use of alcohol, nicotine, and digital media 30 days after the intervention. Several secondary outcome measures will also be included, such as cannabis consumption, gambling, symptoms of stress, physical activity, mindfulness, well-being, impulsivity and sensation seeking, and readiness to change. A total of 4500 vocational students from 225 classes will be recruited and randomized across three German federal states.

Discussion: This study protocol describes the design of an RCT testing the effectiveness of an app-based intervention to reduce addictive behaviors in vocational school students. It is expected that this approach will be feasible for and effective in the vocational school setting and that the study provides comprehensive information on the key factors involved in temporary abstaining or reducing substance or digital media use.

Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register DRKS00023788 . Registered on 20 January 2021.

Keywords: Abstinence; Cluster-randomized controlled trial; Internet-related problems; Prevention; Substance use; Vocational students; Voluntary commitment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Gambling*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Students
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Young Adult