Effectiveness of a digital alcohol moderation intervention as an add-on to depression treatment for young adults: study protocol of a multicentre pragmatic randomized controlled trial

Maria J.E. Schouten*, Jack J.M. Dekker, Tamara Q. de Bruijn, David D. Ebert, Lisanne M. Koomen, Sjoerd L.A. Kosterman, Heleen Riper, Michael P. Schaub, Anna E. Goudriaan, Matthijs Blankers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Depressive disorders and problematic drinking often co-occur, also among young adults. These co-occurring conditions are associated with various negative health outcomes compared to both conditions alone. Early intervention by addressing alcohol use and depressive symptoms simultaneously in the same treatment might improve both conditions. However, evidence on the (cost-) effectiveness of digital combined depression and alcohol interventions for young adults is currently insufficient. We therefore developed an add-on digital alcohol moderation adherence-focussed guided intervention to complement treatment as usual (TAU) for depressive disorders. The digital intervention is a web-app, including 6 modules based on motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy. This study aims to evaluate the (cost-)effectiveness of a digital alcohol moderation intervention + TAU compared to TAU on alcohol and depression outcomes among young adults with co-occurring depressive disorders and problematic alcohol use. Methods: One hundred fifty-six participants, aged 18–35 years, with problematic alcohol use and a diagnosed depressive disorder will participate in a pragmatic multicentre two-arm randomized controlled trial. Problematic alcohol use is operationalised as scoring ≥5 for women and ≥ 8 for men on the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT). Participants will be randomized to either the experimental group (digital alcohol intervention + TAU) or control group (TAU only). Participants will be recruited at three Dutch mental health care centres and through social media. Assessments take place at baseline and after 3, 6 and 12 months post-randomization. The primary outcome is treatment response at 6-month follow-up, operationalized as a composite score that combines alcohol use and depression measures and indicates whether treatment has been successful or not. Secondary outcomes are depressive symptoms and alcohol use (i.e. number of weekly standard drinks and AUDIT score). An economic evaluation will be conducted alongside the trial. Discussion: This study evaluates the (cost-) effectiveness of an add-on digital alcohol moderation intervention for young adults who are in treatment for depressive disorders. If proven effective, the digital intervention could be implemented in mental health care and improve treatment for people with co-occurring depressive disorders and problematic alcohol use. Trial registration: Pre-registered on October 29, 2019 in The Netherlands Trial Register (NL8122).

Original languageEnglish
Article number265
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study is funded by ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, funding number 636310009). The funder had no role in the design of the study and will not have any role during its execution, analyses, interpretation of the data or decision to submit results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Comorbidity
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Depression treatment
  • Depressive disorders
  • Digital intervention
  • Effectiveness
  • Ehealth
  • Problematic alcohol use
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Young adults


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