This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Research to focus on role of emotions in alcohol use, abuse, relapse

Published: June 23, 2005

Reporter Contributor

The role of negative emotions in alcohol use, abuse and relapse will be the focus of a study by Paul R. Stasiewicz, a researcher at UB's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), under a $1,937,729 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Forty percent of all drinking relapses among men and women in treatment involve situations with negative or unpleasant emotions, such as sadness, anxiety or depression. Currently, no well-developed, empirically tested treatments specifically address the impact of negative emotions on alcohol relapse.

"Drinking alcohol is often used by people as an attempt to regulate or manage unpleasant emotions," Stasiewicz explained. In this study, he and his research team will develop and pilot test a clinical intervention to address the problem.

Stasiewicz is director of RIA's Clinical Research Center and a principal investigator whose work focuses on behavioral research, alcohol craving and reducing DWI recidivism. He also is a research associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The five-year study will include development of a 12-session treatment manual to be used in clinical settings.

"In the first phase of the study, an affect regulation training manual will be developed to assist treatment providers working with clients who report using alcohol to cope with negative emotions," Stasieiwicz said. "The treatment manual will include multiple techniques that clients can learn to help regulate and manage their emotions or feelings without turning to alcohol."

The manual will be used concurrently with a standard 12-session treatment-as-usual protocol a part of a clinical intervention.

During the second phase of the project, a pilot study of alcohol treatment outcomes for clients who participate in treatment-as-usual plus the affect regulation intervention will be compared to outcomes for clients who participate in treatment-as-usual plus a supplement focused on health behaviors (e.g., nutrition, sleep, exercise).

"The long-term objective of this line of research," Stasiewicz explained, "is to make a brief, effective intervention available to clinicians that will enhance treatment for alcohol dependence and reduce relapse."

His colleagues on the project include Clara M. Bradizza, RIA senior research scientist and research associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry; Scott F. Coffey, formerly of UB and now with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Mississippi; and Suzy Bird Gulliver of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston University.