Drug and Alcohol Research

Adolescent Health Evidence Synthesis
Mental Health
Aging & Gerontology Global Health
Maternal & Child Health
Cancer Health Disparities & Culture
Physical Activity & Obesity
Drugs & Alcohol Healthcare Policy
Environmental Health  HIV/AIDS

Opioid addiction treatment behind bars reduced post-incarceration overdose deaths in Rhode Island

A treatment program for opioid addiction launched by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections was associated with a significant drop in post-incarceration drug overdose deaths and contributed to an overall drop in overdose deaths statewide, a new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, finds. READ MORE

Personalized Normative Feedback: A Useful Tool for Veterans Impacted by Blackouts

Blackouts — or periods of alcohol‐induced amnesia for all or part of a drinking event — have been identified as independent predictors of alcohol‐related harm that may be used to identify individuals who would benefit from intervention. However, little is known about the prevalence and impact of blackouts among veterans. This study, and published in Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research and conducted by lead author Mary Beth Miller, adjunct assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, examined blackouts as a moderator of young adult veteran response to a brief, online personalized normative feedback intervention for heavy drinking. READ MORE

College Students’ Heaviest Drinking Occasions are Influenced by their Peers

This study, published in Addictive Behaviors and conducted by lead author Matthew K. Meisel, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, aimed to 1) describe the network of members who are present in the drinking occasions of their peers, and 2) examine the relationship between participants’ position in the network of heavy drinking day ties and the total number of drinks consumed on their maximum drinking day. The authors sought to describe the network ties that link together high-risk drinking occasions to help better inform interventions that account for the social influence of peers. READ MORE

New Website Provides Drug Overdose Surveillance Information and Resources in Rhode Island

The drug overdose epidemic is a national crisis that continues to grow. In Rhode Island, the state with the 5th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015, half of all overdose deaths involved fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. In response to this crisis, Rhode Island’s governor established the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force in 2015. The task force set out to draft a strategic plan to reduce overdose deaths in Rhode Island by one-third in three years. A key component of this strategic plan was the development of a publicly visible, online “dashboard” to communicate overdose-related data, promote transparency, and track progress towards reaching the plan’s goals. As a result, the interactive, publicly available, data-focused website, www.PreventOverdoseRI.org was established in June 2016.  This project, authored by Brandon D. L. Marshall, associate professor of epidemiology, primarily sought to create a public website using timely public health surveillance information about the overdose epidemic in Rhode Island.  READ MORE

Video Conferencing is an Effective Way to Administer Brief Motivational Interventions to Patients

This study, led by Mark Celio, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, and published in Addiction and Research Theorysought to examine the acceptability and logical feasibility of utilizing video-conference technology to deliver motivational interventions targeting emergency department patients with heavy drinking and risky sexual behavior as an alternative to in-person sessions. READ MORE

Discrepancies Exist Between Personal and Perceived Approval of Intoxicated Behaviors

This study, authored by recent Behavioral and Social Health Sciences masters graduate Ashley Lowery, and published in Addictive Behaviorssought to examine self-other differences or SODs, for college students’ ratings of the approval of intoxicated behaviors. The authors had two primary objectives: (1) to determine if significant differences exist between students’ personal approval and perceived approval of student peers in regards to intoxicated behaviors, and (2) to identify demographic factors associated with SODs. READ MORE

Opioid makers made payments to one in 12 U.S. doctors

Legally prescribed opioids can be an effective treatment for pain, but they are also the root cause of many of the cases of addiction and overdose deaths that have reached epidemic levels in the U.S. That’s why experts such as Brandon Marshall, associate professor of epidemiology, are investigating efforts by opioid painkiller manufacturers to promote prescribing of the medicines by wining and dining doctors and paying them large speaking fees.

In a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Marshall, lead author Scott Hadland of Boston Medical Center, and colleagues report for the first time on the tens of millions of dollars that drug companies are paying doctors through meals, honoraria and other marketing and education programs. READ MORE

Injection Drug Use and Overdose among Young Adults Who Use Prescription Opioids Non-Medically

Non-medical prescription opioid (NMPO) use is a critical public health problem in the United States, with 2.1 million new initiates annually. Young adut NMPO users are at high risk for initiating injection drug use. This study, supported by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in Addictive Behaviors, was led by Elliott Liebling, MPH'17. The study aimed to assess sociodemographic, structural, childhood, and drug-related correlates of lifetime injection drug use among young adults who use prescription opioids non-medically in Rhode Island, a state heavily impacted by opioid overdose. READ MORE

First Study of an Online Alcohol Prevention Program for College Students Living off Campus

Students living in off-campus housing consume more alcohol and experience more alcohol-related consequences than those living on campus, yet prevention efforts have not targeted this high-risk group specifically. This study, supported by the NIAAA and published in The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, was led by Kate Carey, professor of behavioral and social sciences. The study evaluated the efficacy of a brief, computer-delivered, alcohol intervention (the College Drinkers Check-Up) in reducing alcohol use and related consequences in a sample of college students living off campus. READ MORE

Fentanyl Takes a Mounting Toll

The number of overdose deaths in Rhode Island attributable to fentanyl rose to 138 in the first nine months of 2016, compared to 84 in all of 2014, according to a study led by Brandon Marshall, assistant professor of epidemiology. In 2014, 35 percent of the state’s fatal overdoses occurred because of fentanyl, but it was involved in 56 percent of drug deaths by 2016. READ MORE

Insomnia Severity Impacts Symptoms of Depression and PTSD on Alcohol Use and Related Consequences in Veterans

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of largest barriers to physical and mental health in the U.S. It is especially concerning among military personnel. Heavy-drinking service report higher levels of general stress, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and suicidal ideation than their lower-drinking counterparts. This study, led by Mary Beth Miller, adjunct assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences (research), and published in Drug and Alcohol Dependencefound that approximately half of the participants reported clinically significant symptoms of insomnia and depression, and more than a third met screening criteria on a self-report measure of PTSD. The prevalence of these mental health issues and their respective influences on alcohol-related outcomes indicate a need to prevent and treat these problems in young adults who have been discharged from military service.  READ MORE

Parent-adolescent Relationship Factors Have a Larger Influence on Age of Alcohol and Marijuana Onset for Hispanics than for Caucasians

This study, published in Addictive Behaviors, was funded by NIAA grants for which Kristina Jackson, professor of behavioral and social sciences (research), served as principal investigator. It examined whether ethnicity moderated the effect of parental relationships on the onset of alcohol and marijuana use. Study authors hypothesized that protective effects of positive parental relationship factors (for both paternal and maternal figures) would be stronger for Hispanics as compared to Caucasians. They also hypothesized that negative effects of parental relationship factors (for both paternal and maternal figures) would be reduced for Hispanics as compared to Caucasians. READ MORE

Curbing alcohol to fight HIV could save money in Kenya

Public health research shows that alcohol may be a factor in more than 13 percent of deaths due to infectious diseases, including HIV. Drinking undermines the fight against the virus in two main ways, researchers have found: it makes transmission through risky sex more likely and undermines health by relaxing the rigor with which infected people take virus-suppressing medicine. READ MORE

Naltrexone Does Not Improve Smoking Cessation Outcomes for Heavy Drinking Smokers

Alcohol use is positively associated with smoking initiation and escalation to regular cigarette use, and is among the most common smoking relapse precipitants. In the past, smoking cessation interventions that have incorporated counseling to reduce drinking have shown some success. An intriguing possibility for enhancing the effectiveness of such interventions is adding pharmacotherapies that impact alcohol use, such as naltrexone. The results of this study, led by Christopher Kahler, professor of behavioral and social sciences, and published in Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, indicate that a smoking cessation intervention that includes counseling on alcohol use can have positive effects for heavy drinking smokers. However, this study provided no evidence that naltrexone is effective for enhancing reductions in drinking or improving smoking cessation in this population. READ MORE

Long Term Alcohol Use Patterns Associated with HIV Disease Severity

Long-term patters of alcohol use are associated with HIV disease severity, according to a new study led by Brandon Marshall, Manning Assistant Professor of Epidemiology. Between 2002 and 2010, the researchers assessed alcohol consumption and HIV disease severity among men and women infected with HIV participating in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. The results of this study, published in AIDS, suggest that long-term alcohol consumption and HIV disease severity are linked and interrelated in this group of veterans infected with HIV.  READ MORE

The Effects of a Brief, Parent-focused Intervention for Substance Abuse

By the time teens reach the 12th grade, 46.7 percent report having been drunk and 44.7 percent report cannabis use. Youth who initiate alcohol and other drug use early in adolescence are more likely to develop substance abuse diagnoses, and drinking to intoxication is highly associated with high-risk sexual behavior, high deviance, young adult arrests, and low educational attainment. Adolescent alcohol and other drug use can be directly and indirectly influenced by parental modelling, punishment for experimentation, and advice about peer selection. The purpose of this study, published in Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, and led by Drs. Anthony Spirito and Lynn Hernandez, faculty members in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to evaluate the efficacy of Family Check-up, a parent-focused brief motivational intervention, in families where parents were concerned about one adolescent’s alcohol or marijuana use and the referred adolescent also had a sibling close in age. READ MORE

Innovative, Technology-Assisted Intervention for Parents of Adolescents in Substance Abuse Treatment

According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, there are 3450 residential substance use treatment facilities in the Us and 10.3% of all adolescents who seek treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) will receive treatment in this setting. Adolescents in residential SUD treatment are also at extremely high risk of relapse, with follow-up studies suggesting that 60% of adolescents discharged from residential SUD facilities will relapse within 90 days. Parents have been established as a critical influence on adolescents’ initiation and maintenance of substance abuse, as well as their substance use outcomes and likelihood of relapse following treatment. Two parenting processes that appear to be particularly important protective factors against adolescent SUDs are monitoring and supervision, and communication with the adolescent. However, parents of adolescents with SUDs have traditionally been difficult to engage in behavioral treatments. The purpose of this study, published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice and led by Sara Becker, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, was to adapt and evaluate a technology-assisted intervention for parents of adolescents in residential SUD treatment.  READ MORE

Impulsive Personality Traits and Alcohol Use: Does Sleeping Help with Thinking?

Both impulsivity and poor sleep health have been associated with problematic alcohol use among young adults. However, the nature of the association between sleep and impulsivity and their combined impact on alcohol use is unclear; inadequate sleep may compound the negative effect of impulsivity on decision making, leading to greater alcohol use and related consequences among individuals who tend to act impulsively. The purpose of this study, published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and led by Mary Beth Miller, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to examine the associations between sleep, impulsivity, and alcohol use among young adults in college.  READ MORE

Contingency Management for Alcohol Use Reduction Using a Transdermal Alcohol Sensor

Contingency management is among the more effective strategies for promoting abstinence in the treatment of substance use disorders. Contingency management programs are designed to reinforce target behaviors (e.g., a negative urine drug screen) by delivering a tangible reward when the target behavior occurs, and withholding the reward when the target behavior does not occur. Historically, the application of contingency management to the treatment of alcohol use disorders has been limited by reliance on breath alcohol tests as the primary measure of alcohol use. Given the short half-life of breath alcohol, breath alcohol tests will not detect drinking beyond a relatively brief period. One approach that can address the limitations of other objective measures of recent alcohol use is transdermal alcohol monitoring, which provides a continuous measure of alcohol excreted through the skin. The purpose of this study, published in Addictionled by Nancy Barnett, professor of behavioral and social sciences, was to test the efficacy of daily contingent reinforcement for reducing alcohol use using a transdermal alcohol sensor to detect alcohol use. READ MORE

Altering Ethanol Pharmacokinetics to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a complex medical disease with dramatic consequences to our society in terms of mortality and morbidity. Research efforts have focused on differed strategies to treat AUD, including the development of medications. Pharmacological interventions to treat AUD may act by reversing the acute effects of ethanol, managing cravings, and reducing stress and/or withdrawal. Disulfiram was the first drug approved in the US for the treatment of AUD, and today it is the only medication used clinically whose mechanism of action is based on altering ethanol pharmacokinetics. The purpose of this review, published in Journal of Psychopharmacology and led by Carolina Haass-Koffler, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, was to explore the complexity of drug–ethanol interactions and discuss medications used to treat AUD that share pharmacokinetics pathways with ethanol. READ MORE

The Prevalence and Correlates of Substance Use among Youth Living with HIV

HIV infection disproportionately affects young people, with individuals 16-24 years of age demonstrating the highest rates of new HIV infections. Several studies have documented a high prevalence of substance use behaviors among young people living with HIV, which carries a host of general health risks as well as repercussions for those with HIV, including increased condomless sex and suboptimal adherence to antiretroviral therapy. The purpose of this study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and led Kristi Gamarel, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, was to assess the prevalence of substance use behaviors in a population of 2216 youth living with HIV, and to examine the associations between several substances, sociodemographic and structural factors, comorbid psychological distress, and HIV disease and sexual risk characteristics. READ MORE

Access to Substance Use Treatment among Young Adults Who Use Prescription Opioids Non-medically

The purpose of this study, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy and led by Elliot Liebling, Master's of Public Health student, was to assess the correlates of accessing substance use treatment among young adult NMPO users in Rhode Island, a state heavily impacted by NMPO use and opioid overdose. The researchers used data from 200 Rhode Island residents to compare those who had successfully enrolled in a substance use treatment program without ever facing barriers, individuals who had ever attempted to enroll but were unable, and individuals who never attempted to enroll. READ MORE

The Role of Corticotropin Releasing Factor Binding Protein in Alcohol Consumption

The purpose of this study, published by Translational Psychiatry and led by Carolina Haass-Koffler, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, was to conduct a series of in vitro/in vivo experiments across different species to define the biologically discrete role of CRFBP in alcohol use disorder. READ MORE

The Interrelationships between Marijuana Demand and Discounting of Delayed Rewards

Delay discounting and substance demand are two precise behavioral constructs that may reflect key components of impulsivity. Delay discounting is characterized by deficits in self-regulation and the preference for the immediate acquisition or consumption of a commodity despite long-term negative outcomes. Substance demand is characterized by perceived drug value. The distinct and dual influences of delay discounting and substance value contribute to a conceptualization of addiction known as reinforcer pathology. The purpose of this study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and led by Elizabeth Aston, assistant professor of behavior and social sciences and faculty member in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to test whether frequent marijuana users conform to a reinforcer pathology model of addiction by examining the joint influence of marijuana demand and delay discounting. read more

The Characteristics of Intermittent and Daily Smokers in a Sample of Heavy-drinking, HIV-infected MSM

The prevalence of cigarette smoking remains high among persons living with HIV, in particular among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Smoking among persons living with HIV has been linked to increased rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other pulmonary diseases. The purpose of this study, published in AIDS Care and led by Patricia Cioe, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, was to compare the quit intentions of daily smokers and intermittent smokers, in a population of heavy-drinking, HIV-infected men who have sex with men. read more

The Nature of Change Language in a Motivation Intervention to Reduce Alcohol and Sex Risk Behaviors

Motivational interviewing is an effective method for reducing risky health behaviors, including negative alcohol and sex-related behaviors. Coding patient language during such counselling is an emerging method for understanding mechanisms responsible for behavior change, a necessary step for improving behavior counselling. The purpose of this study, published in Patient Education and Counselling and led by Chris Kahler, professor of behavioral and social sciences, was to examine how topics of discussion in a health behavior intervention relate to patient change language across two target behaviors, alcohol use and sex risk. read more

The Role of Discrimination in Alcohol-Related Problems in Heavy Drinking Men Who Have Sex with Men 

This study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependenceby Tyler Wray, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, and colleagues, used path modeling to explore associations between perceived discrimination experiences, drinking motives, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems in samples of heavy drinking MSM with and without HIV. read more