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RIA study proposes new treatment method for alcohol problems

By CATHY WILDE

Published April 10, 2014

“The clinical techniques used in ART help patients cope more effectively with their emotions by helping people experience and deal with negative feelings in an environment that does not involve drinking.”
Paul Stasiewicz, senior research scientist
Research Institute on Addictions

A study published by UB’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) suggests a new approach to help certain people stop drinking.

“For people who report problem drinking in negative emotional situations, such as depression, anxiety or stress, we have developed a promising treatment approach that shows greater reductions in alcohol use when compared to standard treatment,” says study director Paul Stasiewicz, RIA  senior research scientist.

Many alcohol treatment programs use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help people with alcohol use disorders. CBT helps people identify their high-risk drinking situations and teaches skills to help manage those situations without drinking.

Stasiewicz’s study developed and tested a new treatment he calls “affect regulation training” (ART). ART was developed to supplement the standard CBT program for those people whose drinking is strongly tied to negative emotions.

“The clinical techniques used in ART help patients cope more effectively with their emotions by helping people experience and deal with negative feelings in an environment that does not involve drinking,” Stasiewicz says. “Patients learn to better tolerate and accept the uncomfortable experience without engaging in substance use.”

The initial study showed that people who received ART in addition to CBT had greater reductions in alcohol use compared to people who received a health and wellness component with CBT.

“The results show promise and should be of interest to treatment providers who are seeking additional strategies to help those who drink in negative emotional situations,” Stasiewicz says.

Co-investigators on the study were Scott F. Coffey from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Suzy B. Gulliver from the Department of Medical Affairs and Texas A&M College of Medicine, and Clara M. Bradizza, Robert C. Schlauch, Gregory D. Gudleski, project director, and Christopher W. Bole, database manager, all from RIA. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.