Effects of an App-Based Intervention Program to Reduce Substance Use, Gambling, and Digital Media Use in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Multicenter, Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial in Vocational Schools in Germany

. 2023 Jan 20;20(3):1970.

doi: 10.3390/ijerph20031970.


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Benjamin Pietsch et al.

Int J Environ Res Public Health.



Vocational students are a risk group for problematic substance use and addictive behaviors. The study aim was to evaluate the effects of an app-based intervention on tobacco, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis use as well as gambling and digital media-related behaviors in the vocational school setting. A total of 277 classes with 4591 students (mean age 19.2 years) were consecutively recruited and randomized into an intervention (IG) or waitlist control group (CG). Students from IG classes received access to an app, which encouraged a voluntary commitment to reduce or completely abstain from the use of a specific substance, gambling, or media-related habit for 2 weeks. Substance use, gambling, and digital media use were assessed before and after the intervention in both groups with a mean of 7.7 weeks between assessments. Multi-level logistic regression models were used to test group differences. Intention-to-treat-results indicated that students from IG classes had a significantly larger improvement on a general adverse health behavior measure compared to CG (OR = 1.24, p = 0.010). This difference was mainly due to a significantly higher reduction of students’ social media use in the IG (OR = 1.31, p < 0.001). Results indicate that the app “Meine Zeit ohne” is feasible for the target group and seems to have a small but measurable impact on students’ health behavior.


abstinence; cluster-randomized controlled trial; internet-related problems; prevention; substance use; vocational students; voluntary commitment.

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