Effectiveness and Acceptance of a Smartphone-Based Virtual Agent Screening for Alcohol and Tobacco Problems and Associated Risk Factors During COVID-19 Pandemic in the General Population.

Marc Auriacombe, Lucie Fournet, Lucile Dupuy, Jean-Arthur Micoulaud-Franchi, Etienne de Sevin, Sarah Moriceau, Emmanuelle Baillet, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Fuschia Serre, Pierre Philip
Front. Psychiatry. 2021-07-16; 12:
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.693687

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Background: During the current COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol, and tobacco are the most available substances for managing stress and can induce a risk of addiction. KANOPEE is a smartphone application available to the general population using an embodied conversational agent (ECA) to screen for experiences of problems with alcohol/tobacco use and to provide follow-up tools for brief intervention.

Objectives: This study aimed to determine if the smartphone KANOPEE application could identify people at risk for alcohol and/or tobacco use disorders in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, to assess adherence to a 7-day follow-up use diary, and to evaluate trust and acceptance of the application.Methods: The conversational agent, named Jeanne, interviewed participants about perceived problems with the use of alcohol and tobacco since the pandemic and explored risk for tobacco and alcohol use disorder with the five-item Cigarette Dependence Scale (CDS-5) and “Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener” (CAGE) questionnaire and experience of craving for each substance. Descriptive, univariate, and multivariate analyses were performed to specify personalized associations with reporting a problem with alcohol/tobacco use; descriptive analysis reported the experience with the intervention and acceptance and trust in the application.

Results: From April 22 to October 26, 2020, 1,588 French participants completed the KANOPEE interview, and 318 answered the acceptance and trust scales. Forty-two percent of tobacco users and 27% of alcohol users reported problem use since the pandemic. Positive screening with CDS-5 and CAGE and craving were associated with reported problem use (p < 0.0001). Lockdown period influenced alcohol (p < 0.0005) but not tobacco use (p > 0.05). Eighty-eight percent of users reported that KANOPEE was easy to use, and 82% found Jeanne to be trustworthy and credible.

Conclusion: KANOPEE was able to screen for risk factors for substance use disorder (SUD) and was acceptable to users. Reporting craving and being at risk for SUD seem to be early markers to be identified. Alcohol problem use seems to be more reliant on contextual conditions such as confinement. This method is able to offer acceptable, brief, and early intervention with minimal delay for vulnerable people.

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus