On this page you will find a collection of active addiction-related projects ongoing across Rutgers. Learn about on-going research projects and datasets available for analysis. Contact information for each project listed below is provided.
If you are interested in hosting your project on this page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your project details.
Compound RUEC2-118 a fast-acting treatment for general anxiety and panic disorder
We are involved in collaborative proof-of-concept studies of compound RUEC2-118, a novel partial GABAAR positive modulator, as a fast-acting treatment for general anxiety and panic disorder, to prevent benzodiazepine withdrawal and overdose fatalities.
Cultural and Environmental Influences on Precursors to and Early Stages of Alcohol, Nicotine, and Cannabis Use in Black and Latinx Youth
Reducing harms associated with early and problem use of alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis among Black and Latinx youth requires insight into the family and community level cultural and environmental factors most salient to substance use risk in Black and Latinx girls and boys from the pre- to mid-adolescent years. The proposed secondary data analysis project focuses on cultural and environmental factors of particular relevance to members of racial/ethnic minority groups, such as racial/ethnic discrimination and ethnic identity, as well as those more prevalent in Black and Latinx than White youth (e.g., neighborhood disadvantage, religious involvement) to characterize pathways of substance use – from cognitions that precede first use to early onset regular use – from ages 9 to 16. Findings will lay the groundwork for cultural tailoring of substance use prevention strategies for Black and Latinx youth toward the broader goal of reducing substance use related health disparities.
Development of genetically encoded fluorescent reporters for in vitro study
Extracellular DA levels are influenced by two important presynaptic proteins: the DA D2 receptor short isoform (D2DRsh), which acts presynaptically as an inhibitory autoreceptor; and the DA transporter, DAT, which clears extracellular DA through reuptake. D2DRshs and DATs are internalized, and portions are recycled back onto the cell membrane. To better understand these trafficking events in drug addiction, we are in the process of engineering and optimizing genetically encoded fluorescent reporters with biophysical properties suitable for reporting membrane trafficking of DAT and D2DRsh in vivo. We have made prototypes for in vitro study and we welcome collaborations.
Ecological Momentary Assessment of Racial Microaggressions and Alcohol Use in African American Young Adults
African American adults are disproportionately exposed to alcohol-related risk factors and experience high levels of alcohol-related illness, injuries, and negative social consequences, making the identification of prevention and intervention targets for this population a crucial public health aim. Racial discrimination has been linked to problem drinking among African Americans, but the impact of everyday race-related discriminatory events, known as racial microaggressions, and possible buffers against their effects on day-to- day drinking behaviors have yet to be identified. The submitted project implements an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to track race-related microaggression experiences and drinking behaviors in real time among African American adults in the peak period of risk for problem drinking (ages 18-25) to evaluate associations between racial microaggressions and alcohol use in this high-risk group.
Effectiveness of the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program on treatment linkage and repeat overdose
NJ has developed the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program (OORP), which provides peer-to-peer recovery supports and linkage to treatment for opiate overdose survivors identified in hospital emergency departments. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the OORP on treatment linkage and repeat overdose using Medicaid data. Our design calls for two approaches to assessing OORP effectiveness. These include: 1) a comparison of outcomes of all patients treated for non-fatal overdose in OORP (intervention group) and non-OORP (control group) hospitals before and after OORP implementation (intention-to-treat, or ITT, analysis); and 2) a comparison of the outcomes of Medicaid-eligible individuals enrolled in the OORP program (the intervention group) with a randomly-selected matched group of patients seen at non-OORP hospitals (the control group) during the same time frame (as-treated analysis).
Enhancement and Expansion of the C3I Program to develop tobacco cessation treatment capacity and infrastructure for cancer patients
The goal of this project is to improve tobacco treatment at comprehensive cancer centers.
Evaluating Cigarette Relighting Behavior: Prevalence, Correlates, Toxicant Exposure, and Implications for Cessation
The goals of this study are to: 1) describe the prevalence, frequency of, and reasons for cigarette relighting behaviors among smokers, 2) characterize effects of relighting on smoke toxicant deliveries and subjective smoking measures, and 3) investigate the potential impact of relighting on tobacco treatment delivery and cessation.
FELONY WOMEN is a multi-site and multi-temporal ethnography of women in conflict with the law. Using an interdisciplinary feminist theoretical framework focusing on critical and feminist criminology with other feminist approaches in geography and health, the research has one overall purpose: to reveal how women in conflict with the law make meaning of their lives across time and place through systems and experiences of oppression and resistance. The research returns to the same group of women more than a decade after my ethnography of their incarceration and reentry in a correctional halfway house. It weaves together women’s pathways to drugs and crime, their incarceration experience, and post imprisonment life to show how patterns of harm and the ways women cope are revealed across the lifetime in all spheres of life. It positions women as agents of change and details interconnections of the women’s identity markers such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and age.
The Finnish Twin Studies
FinnTwin16 (FT16) and FinnTwin12 (FT12) are two population-based twin studies aimed at understanding how genetic and environmental influences impact the development of alcohol use and related behaviors across adolescence and into young adulthood. All twins were identified through Finland’s Central Population Registry, permitting exhaustive and unbiased ascertainment of all twins born in the country across 10 birth, for a total of ~10,000 twins and their families. FT16 has questionnaire assessments at ages 16, 17, 18.5, and in the mid-20s. These questionnaires contain items on alcohol use, smoking, other drug use, personality, and related health habits and environmental factors. A subset of the twins highly concordant or discordant for alcohol use in adolescence (~600 twins) also completed psychiatric interviews, DNA collection, electrophysiological measures, and neuropsychological testing at the mid-20s assessment. FT12 first assessed children at age 12, with follow-ups at age 14, 17, and in the young 20s. FT12 contains rich data from the twins, parents, teachers, and peers. A subset (~1850 twins and their parents) also completed psychiatric interviews at ages 14 and 22. GWAS data for this subset are also available.
Genetic predisposition to cocaine addiction
This project aims to understand the role of a Parkinson’s disease gene, PARK20/SYNJ1, in regulating cocaine tolerance in mice. Through collaboration with Drs. David Barker and Ron Hart, we investigate by using imaging, bioinformatics and behavioral analyses.
Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Opioid Use Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
This project will test whether augmenting medications for opioid use disorder (OUD) with an adapted, trauma-focused, integrated behavioral treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring PTSD (i.e., Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Substance Use Disorders Using Prolonged Exposure; COPE) will enhance clinical outcomes. The investigators will modify the existing 12-week, COPE intervention to individuals with OUD and PTSD using an iterative process informed by provider and patient feedback. They will then conduct an open-label trial (n = 5) to further refine and finalize the treatment protocol. Finally, they will test COPE combined with medications for OUD (MOUD) versus MOUD-only in a randomized clinical trial among 76 individuals with OUD and PTSD to evaluate feasibility and preliminary efficacy in reducing opioid use and PTSD severity. Both groups will complete ecological momentary assessments (EMA) to assess for daily opioid use, craving, and PTSD symptoms. EMA will allow for assessment for the associations between daily PTSD symptoms and opioid craving and use, which may then inform treatment development.
Investigating Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP) Neurons as Therapeutic Targets for Modulating Drinking
Dysfunction of stress-related neuroendocrine and autonomic arousal pathways are highly associated with alcohol-related behaviors. Repeated alcohol use increases arousal. Moreover, higher arousal levels in treatment-seeking AUD patients correlates with higher rates of relapse. These findings suggest reciprocal interactions between arousal and alcohol use, such that higher basal arousal promotes alcohol drinking, which further exacerbates arousal. A challenge in understanding the neurobiological mechanisms mediating interactions between arousal and drinking is the lack of preclinical animal models that allow quantification of drinking together with longitudinal measurement of arousal and neuronal activity. We addressed this by designing a voluntary ethanol consumption paradigm for head-fixed mice combined with two-photon calcium imaging for neuronal activity recordings and pupillometry for measuring arousal. Our experiments suggest that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) subdivision of the prefrontal cortex potently increases arousal. Basal levels of arousal and arousal-related ACC activity are correlated with the amount of ethanol consumption, suggesting that the ACC contributes to arousal modulation of drinking. Cortical activity is critically shaped by inhibition from local interneurons. The vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) expressing interneurons are particularly important as they inhibit other interneurons, leading to disinhibitory excitation of the ACC. We are testing the hypothesis that ACC VIP neurons are a key node for reciprocal interactions between arousal and ethanol consumption. Our mechanistic studies may establish VIP neurons as a key therapeutic target for modulating drinking driven by aberrant arousal.