Professor Matt Field

Professor of Psychology

I lead the addiction research group in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool. I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology (Swansea University, 1997) and a PhD in Experimental Psychology (University of Sussex, 2001). I delivered the keynote lecture at the SSA conference in 2013.

Long-term benefits of temporary alcohol restriction: feasibility study

Presentation link: Long-term benefits of temporary alcohol restriction: feasibility study

Presentation audio: Long-term benefits of temporary alcohol restriction: feasibility study

Aims: Participation in campaigns such as ‘Dry January’ is associated with reductions in alcohol consumption several months after the temporary abstinence period. However, methodological issues with observational studies make it difficult to attribute this to temporary abstinence from alcohol. In this study we randomized heavy drinkers to either complete or intermittent alcohol abstinence for four weeks, to inform the feasibility of conducting a large-scale evaluation.

Methods: In this mixed methods feasibility study we explored recruitment and retention to a randomized trial, compliance with alcohol abstinence instructions, and barriers to compliance. A community sample of heavy drinking women (aged 40-60) were randomized to abstain from alcohol for four weeks either completely or intermittently (at least four abstinent days per week). Participants provided regular breath samples on a cellular breathalyzer to monitor compliance. A subsample completed a semi-structured interview at the end of the study.

Results: We randomized 25 participants, and the majority (96%) were retained throughout the intervention period. Participants tended to comply with abstinence instructions: median number of breathalyzer-verified abstinent days was 24 (IQR = 15.5 – 25) in the complete abstinence group versus 12 (IQR = 10-15) in the intermittent abstinence group. Semi-structured interviews identified some barriers to compliance and acceptability of study procedures.

Conclusions: It is feasible to randomize heavy drinking women to temporarily abstain from alcohol either completely or intermittently. Retention and compliance with the abstinence instructions were good, albeit imperfect. A large-scale trial is feasible, and results could inform implementation of popular temporary abstinence campaigns.