Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that affects millions worldwide, but many are reluctant to seek professional help with their addiction, or struggle to carry on once treatment has ended. A new smartphone app called Breindebaas aims to address this by offering a quick and easy game to help rewire the brain away from alcohol addiction. Although the app alone is not meant to help “cure” alcohol abuse, it could be used in addition to therapy to help ensure minimal relapse risk, or may serve as the first step towards recovery for those who are not yet ready to seek out professional help.

The app aims to disrupt the subconscious processes that feed alcohol addiction through a process called cognitive bias modification (CBM). The game asks users to pull non-alcoholic beverages towards them and push away alcoholic drinks using a swiping motion. It is meant to be used twice a week for over the course of three weeks, and each training session lasts ten minutes. App developers hope that the repeated training will alter the brain's reaction and thought patterns, steering users away from alcohol abuse.

A study using the app will begin November 10. Participants will be asked to complete a short questionnaire three times over the course of the study, and to use the app twice a week for a period of three weeks. Past research using CBM has shown that the brain training technique helps to reduce the risk of relapse by 10 percent. However, the researchers emphasize that the app alone is not meant to treat addiction, but is rather one tool alongside many to help those who struggle with drinking problems.

“Many addicts are reluctant to seek help through standard addiction care." said lead researcher Marloes Postel in a recent statement. "The app can be used as part of regular addiction care programmes, or it can serve as a first step to regular addiction care."

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