Reducing drinking among people experiencing homelessness: Protocol for the development and testing of a just-in-time adaptive intervention

Michael S. Businelle, Scott T. Walters, Eun Young Mun, Thomas R. Kirchner, Emily T. Hébert, Xiaoyin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adults who are homeless are more likely to have alcohol use disorders (AUDs) compared with domiciled adults. Although AUD treatments are commonly available, many factors (eg, transportation limitations and inability to schedule appointments) contribute to low treatment completion rates and low success rates of these interventions among adults experiencing homelessness. Most adults who are homeless own mobile phones; however, no interventions have been developed that use mobile devices to deliver and support AUD interventions for this population. Mobile phone–based AUD interventions may reduce barriers that have limited the use and utility of traditional interventions. Objective: The aim of this study is to (1) identify variables (eg, affect, stress, geolocation, and cravings) that predict drinking among homeless adults (phase I), (2) develop a mobile intervention that utilizes an algorithm to identify moments of risk for drinking and deliver treatment messages that are tailored to the individual’s current needs in real time (phase II), and (3) pilot test the intervention app (phase III). Methods: In phase I, adults experiencing homelessness with an AUD (N=80) will complete baseline, equipment, 2-week, and 4-week follow-up visits in person. Participants will be prompted to complete five daily ecological momentary assessments on a study-provided smartphone for 28 days. The smartphone app will collect GPS coordinates every 5 min for the entire 28-day study period. Participants will wear a transdermal alcohol sensor that will objectively measure alcohol use. In phase II, we will use phase I data to develop an algorithm that identifies moments of heightened risk for drinking and develop treatment messages that address risk factors for drinking. Phase III will pilot test the intervention in 40 adults experiencing homelessness with AUD. Results: This project was funded in June 2018. IRB approval was obtained in October 2018, and data collection for phase I began in February 2019. Phase III data collection is expected to conclude in 2020. To date, 80 participants have consented to the study, and data analysis for phase I will begin in early 2020. Conclusions: This research will highlight intervention targets and develop a novel intervention for understudied and underserved adults experiencing homelessness with AUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15610
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Homeless persons
  • Mobile health
  • Smartphone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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