Randomized controlled trial of inhibitory control training for alcohol use disorders

  • A. Jones
  • C. Nederkoorn
  • K. Houben
  • E. McGrath
  • E. Robinson
  • M. Field


Introduction: Inhibitory control is the ability to stop, change or delay a behaviour than is inappropriate in the current environment, and is thought to play a key role in the self-regulation of alcohol consumption. Inhibitory control training (ICT) is a novel behavioural intervention that yields robust reductions in alcohol consumption in the laboratory, by developing associations between inhibition with alcohol-related cues. Methods: Here we describe findings from a pre-registered randomized controlled trial in which 246 (130 male) heavy drinkers, who were motivated to reduce their alcohol use, were randomly allocated to one of four intervention groups: 1. General ICT (an escalating-difficulty stop-signal task); 2. Cue-specific action-cancellation ICT (an escalating difficulty stop-signal task that required inhibition to alcohol cues); 3. Cue-specific action-restraint ICT (a Go/No-Go task that required inhibition to alcohol cues); or 4. Active control (rapid categorization of alcohol cues). All participants completed the intervention online between 8 and 14 times over a one-month period. Changes in inhibitory control and self-reported alcohol consumption were measured before, during and immediately after completing the intervention, and at 6-week follow-up. Results: There was a robust reduction in alcohol consumption over time (a reduction from 322g to 213g alcohol per week; F(2, 402) = 77.12, p < .001, ηp2 =.277), however the critical group x time interaction was not significant (F(6, 402) = 1.10, p = .360, ηp2 = .016). Conclusion: We found no evidence that ICT influenced alcohol consumption in heavy drinkers, however there was a non-specific reduction in consumption across all groups.