RIA awarded five NIH grants totaling more than $6 million

Exterior view of the Research Institute on Addiction building

The Research Institute on Addictions is located on Main St. in downtown Buffalo

Release Date: August 15, 2013

Photo of Jennifer Livingston, PhD

Jennifer Livingston, PhD

Photo of Kathleen Miller, PhD

Kathleen Miller, PhD

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Photo of Rina Das Eiden, PhD

Rina Das Eiden, PhD

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Photo of Maria Testa, PhD

Maria Testa, PhD

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Photo of Robert Schlauch, PhD

Robert Schlauch, PhD

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) was recently awarded more than $6 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund five innovative studies that will expand knowledge on societal ramifications of drug and alcohol use.

The studies cover a wide range of alcohol- and drug-related topics. Three studies focus on youth issues, including bullying and its relationship to substance use, energy drinks mixed with alcohol and their connection to risky sexual practices and the effects of parental drinking on children of alcoholics. The remaining grants focus on marijuana-induced aggression and partner violence and understanding physical craving in substance abuse recovery.

Kenneth Leonard, PhD, director of RIA, is extremely pleased that RIA has been recognized for its hard work and excellence in research.

“The number and size of these grants represent a remarkable achievement for RIA and our talented researchers,” Leonard says. “Given the current funding climate, only the most outstanding research projects are being funded.”

Jennifer Livingston, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, was awarded $1.8 million over five years by NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) for her study, “Peer Victimization as a Pathway to Adolescent Substance Use.”

Livingston says that although there is clearly the potential of peer victimization (PV) (bullying and sexual harassment) to cause harm, not all adolescents suffer serious effects from such experiences. Little is known about the conditions under which PV causes harm.

“This study aims to discover the conditions under which PV contributes to emotional distress and substance use among adolescents, both immediately and over time” says Livingston. “We’re also seeking to identify the circumstances that might curb the long-term effects of PV, particularly as they relate to the development of emotional distress and substance use problems.”

The NIAAA awarded $1.37 million to Kathleen Miller, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, for her study, “Alcohol and Energy Drink Use, Expectancies and Sexual Risk Taking.”

Miller, a nationally renowned expert on the subject of alcohol mixed with energy drinks, says that although energy drinks have been widely available in the U.S. for more than a decade, their effects remain significantly understudied.

“This study will collect the first detailed, nationally representative data on the prevalence of energy drinks (ED) and alcohol mixed with energy drink (AED) use by youth,” says Miller,  “and will map the differences in use across gender, race/ethnicity, age, college enrollment status and sports involvement, as well as examine the links between AED use and sexual risk taking. We will then seek to understand how gender differences affect these relationships.”

Rina Das Eiden, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, received more than $400,000 from the NIAAA for a two-year study, “Early Childhood Predictors of Adolescent Substance Use in a High Risk Sample.”

Eiden, an expert on the prenatal effects of substance use, says that though children of alcoholics (COAs) are a large and critical component of the underage drinking population, little is known about how alcohol affects parenting and what the predictive risks are for underage drinking and substance use among COAs.

“Knowledge about predictors of substance use—beginning in infancy—is crucial for determining and developing early intervention to address substance-use risk among COAs,” she says.

A $1.86 million grant was made by the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) to Maria Testa, PhD, RIA senior research scientist, for her study titled “Proximal Effects of Marijuana in Understanding Intimate Partner Violence.” The study will take place over four years.

Testa says despite the commonly held belief that marijuana suppresses aggression, many studies find a positive association between marijuana use and intimate partner violence.

“Although marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with increases in rates of usage over the past few years, there is a lack of research regarding marijuana use and aggression,” says Testa. “Understanding the contribution of marijuana to the occurrence of domestic violence has important public health implications.”

Her research will address this gap in knowledge by examining the effects of marijuana use in couples and the consequences for their relationships.

Robert Schlauch, PhD, senior research scientist, received nearly $600,000 from the NIAAA for his grant, “Ambivalence Model of Craving: Re-Examining the Craving-Drinking Relationship.”

This five-year grant aims to improve understanding of the ways in which craving impacts positive treatment outcomes. The research will specifically examine how craving processes change over the course of recovery, including their influence on starting and maintaining treatment.

“Greater understanding of craving processes during the course of recovery has the potential to inform current treatment strategies,” he says. “Craving is a complex experience requiring consideration of many factors, including both desires to use (approach) and desires not to use (avoidance).”

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