Professor Matt Field

I am a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sheffield, and have been active in addiction research for around 25 years. My interests lie in the development and empirical testing of psychological theories of addiction with consideration of the implications of those theories for assessment, prevention, and treatment. For example, I studied the roles of attentional biases, deficits in impulse control, and decision-making in the development of alcohol and tobacco addiction. This included characterising the roles of those psychological factors in the onset of substance use among youth, studying how those factors change during treatment, and evaluating how those factors could be directly targeted to treat addiction.

I have also done more applied work, including development and evaluation of smartphone apps to help people with addiction, working with government to understand the demand for gambling treatment, and working with alcohol charities to understand how public health campaigns can influence drinking behaviour.

My research has been funded by the Medical Research Council and other funders, and I have published more than 200 articles, books and book chapters, including several in Addiction. I have also contributed broader service to the addiction field by serving on editorial boards (including Addiction for 10 years) and grant panels, examining PhDs and specialist postgraduate courses, contributing to media coverage of issues related to addiction, and working with stakeholders including Alcohol Change UK and the Department for Health and Social Care.

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.