Publications of the Technology and Translational Research Unit.
Giorgi, Salvatore; Yaden, David B; Eichstaedt, Johannes C; Ashford, Robert D; Buffone, Anneke E K; Schwartz, Andrew H; Ungar, Lyle H; Curtis, Brenda
Cultural Differences in Tweeting about Drinking Across the US. Journal Article
In: Int J Environ Res Public Health, vol. 17, no. 4, 2020, ISSN: 1660-4601 (Electronic); 1660-4601 (Linking).
Excessive alcohol use in the US contributes to over 88,000 deaths per year and costs over $250 billion annually. While previous studies have shown that excessive alcohol use can be detected from general patterns of social media engagement, we characterized how drinking-specific language varies across regions and cultures in the US. From a database of 38 billion public tweets, we selected those mentioning "drunk", found the words and phrases distinctive of drinking posts, and then clustered these into topics and sets of semantically related words. We identified geolocated "drunk" tweets and correlated their language with the prevalence of self-reported excessive alcohol consumption (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; BRFSS). We then identified linguistic markers associated with excessive drinking in different regions and cultural communities as identified by the American Community Project. "Drunk" tweet frequency (of the 3.3 million geolocated "drunk" tweets) correlated with excessive alcohol consumption at both the county and state levels (r = 0.26 and 0.45, respectively, p < 0.01). Topic analyses revealed that excessive alcohol consumption was most correlated with references to drinking with friends (r = 0.20), family (r = 0.15), and driving under the influence (r = 0.14). Using the American Community Project classification, we found a number of cultural markers of drinking: religious communities had a high frequency of anti-drunk driving tweets, Hispanic centers discussed family members drinking, and college towns discussed sexual behavior. This study shows that Twitter can be used to explore the specific sociocultural contexts in which excessive alcohol use occurs within particular regions and communities. These findings can inform more targeted public health messaging and help to better understand cultural determinants of substance abuse.
Epstein, David H; Tyburski, Matthew; Kowalczyk, William J; Burgess-Hull, Albert J; Phillips, Karran A; Curtis, Brenda L; Preston, Kenzie L
In: npj Digital Medicine, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 26, 2020, ISBN: 2398-6352.
Just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs), typically smartphone apps, learn to deliver therapeutic content when users need it. The challenge is to ``push''content at algorithmically chosen moments without making users trigger it with effortful input. We trained a randomForest algorithm to predict heroin craving, cocaine craving, or stress (reported via smartphone app 3x/day) 90 min into the future, using 16 weeks of field data from 189 outpatients being treated for opioid-use disorder. We used only one form of continuous input (along with person-level demographic data), collected passively: an indicator of environmental exposures along the past 5 h of movement, as assessed by GPS. Our models achieved excellent overall accuracy---as high as 0.93 by the end of 16 weeks of tailoring---but this was driven mostly by correct predictions of absence. For predictions of presence, ``believability''(positive predictive value, PPV) usually peaked in the high 0.70s toward the end of the 16 weeks. When the prediction target was more rare, PPV was lower. Our findings complement those of other investigators who use machine learning with more broadly based ``digital phenotyping''inputs to predict or detect mental and behavioral events. When target events are comparatively subtle, like stress or drug craving, accurate detection or prediction probably needs effortful input from users, not passive monitoring alone. We discuss ways in which accuracy is difficult to achieve or even assess, and warn that high overall accuracy (including high specificity) can mask the abundance of false alarms that low PPV reveals.
Ashford, Robert D; Giorgi, Salvatore; Mann, Beau; Pesce, Chris; Sherritt, Lon; Ungar, Lyle; Curtis, Brenda
In: J Subst Abuse Treat, vol. 109, pp. 50–55, 2019, ISSN: 1873-6483 (Electronic); 0740-5472 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Recovery support services, including in vivo (i.e., face to face) peer-based supports and social networks, are associated with positive effects on substance use disorder recovery outcomes. The translation of in vivo supports to digital platforms is a recent development that is mostly unexamined. The types of users and their engagement patterns of digital recovery support services (D-RSS), and the utility of objective and self-report data in predicting future recovery outcomes require further study to move the recovery support field forward. METHODS: De-identified individual user data from Sober Grid, a recovery social network site (R-SNS) smartphone application, for the years 2015-2018 was analyzed to identify the demographics, engagement patterns, and recovery outcomes of active users. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were used to examine between generational group differences on activity variables and recovery outcomes. Logistic and linear regressions were used to identify significant predictors of sobriety length and relapse among users. RESULTS: The most active tercile of users (n = 1273; mAge = 39 years; 62% male) had average sobriety lengths of 195.5 days and had experienced 4.4 relapses on average since sign-up. Users have over 33,000 unilateral and nearly 14,000 bilateral connections. Users generated over 120,000 unique posts, 507,000 comments, 1617,000 likes, 12,900 check-ins, and 593,000 chats during the period of analysis. Recovery outcomes did not vary between generations, though user activity was significantly different between Generations (Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers), with baby boomers and generation X having higher levels of engagement and connection among all activity markers. Logistic regression results revealed gender (female) was associated with a lower likelihood of reporting loneliness or sexual feelings as an emotional trigger. Linear regressions revealed generation, number of unilateral connections, and number of check-ins was associated with sobriety length, while generation and number of check-ins was associated with number of relapses. CONCLUSIONS: Active users of Sober Grid engage in several platform features that provide objective data that can supplement self-report data for analysis of recovery outcomes. Most commonly uses features are those similar to features readily available in open-ecosystem social network sites (e.g., Facebook). Prediction model results suggest that demographic factors (e.g., age, gender) and activity factors (e.g., number of check-ins) may be useful in deploying just-in-time interventions to prevent relapse or offer additional social support. Further empirical examination is needed to identify the utility of such interventions, as well as the mechanisms of support that accompany feature use or engagement with the D-RSS.
Ashford, R. D.; Bergman, B. G.; Kelly, J. F.; Curtis, B.
In: Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies., 2019.
Substance use, misuse, and disorders (SUDs) are estimated to cost the United States over $500 billion annually. While there are effective SUD behavioral interventions and treatments, there is mounting evidence that technology‐based, digital recovery support services (D‐RSS) have the potential to prevent SUD, complement formal treatment, and improve individual recovery‐related outcomes. This preregistered systematic review focuses on D‐RSS that provide SUD recovery support through websites, smartphone applications, recovery social network sites, or any combination thereof. Data sources included studies found in searching CINAHL Plus (EBSCO), EMBASE, MEDLINE (EBSCO), Index Medicus/MEDLINE (NLM), Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection (EBSCO), PsycINFO (ProQuest), ProQuest Psychology Journals (ProQuest), and retrieved references. Observational, mixed‐methods, qualitative, or experimental studies, published in English, between January 1985 and January 2019, that characterized users and recovery‐related outcomes of any D‐RSS were included. The initial search yielded 5,278 abstracts. After removing duplicates, as well as reviewing titles and abstracts and removing studies not indicating an examination of recovery (i.e., treatment or prevention focused) and digital supports, 78 abstracts remained. Final included studies (n = 22) characterized international users of multiple D‐RSS types, including websites, digital recovery forums, recovery social networking sites, smartphone applications, and short messaging service texting programs. Experimental evidence was lacking as most studies were observational or qualitative in nature (n = 18). The review suggests that the evidence base for most D‐RSS is still lacking in terms of demonstrating benefit for recovery‐related outcomes. Descriptively, D‐RSS have high usage rates among engaged participants, across a range of SUD and recovery typologies and phenotypes, with 11% of U.S. adults who have resolved a SUD reporting lifetime engaging with at least one D‐RSS. D‐RSS deployment can help ameliorate barriers related to accessibility and availability of more traditional recovery supports, and may well be a valuable tool in addressing SUD and supporting recovery as uptake increases across the United States.
Ashford, Robert D; Brown, Austin M; Ashford, Arielle; Curtis, Brenda
In: Exp Clin Psychopharmacol, 2019, ISSN: 1936-2293 (Electronic); 1064-1297 (Linking).
Previous research has found language used to describe individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD; e.g., "addict," "substance abuser") contributes to and elicits negative bias among the general public and health care professionals. However, the prevalence in which recovering individuals use these labels to self-identify and the impact of such labels are unknown. The current pilot study, a cross-sectional design, examined the usage of two labels ("addict," "person with a SUD") as well as the differences in recovery outcomes among individuals in recovery. Participants (n = 54) used both labels at high rates ("addict": 66.67%; "person with a SUD": 38.89%), though mutually exclusive use was lower ("addict" only: 35.19%, "person with a SUD" only: 7.5%). Common label use settings included mutual-aid recovery meetings, with friends and family, and on social media. Analysis of variance tests found no statistically significant differences between label groups for recovery capital, self-esteem, internalized stigma and shame, flourishing, or length in recovery. Descriptively, participants using only "person with a SUD" had more positive outcomes, although these individuals also had higher levels of internalized shame. Results suggest that language may have only a marginal impact on individuals in recovery, although professionals and the general public should continue to avoid using stigmatizing labels. Additionally, many individuals in recovery have the ability to discern context and setting, switching between positive and negative labels as appropriate. Future research is warranted given these pilot findings and should focus on long-term impacts of self-labeling and internalized stereotypes among individuals in recovery. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
Curtis, Brenda L; Ashford, Robert D; Magnuson, Katherine I; Ryan-Pettes, Stacy R
Comparison of Smartphone Ownership, Social Media Use, and Willingness to Use Digital Interventions Between Generation Z and Millennials in the Treatment of Substance Use: Cross-Sectional Questionnaire Study. Journal Article
In: J Med Internet Res, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. e13050, 2019, ISSN: 1438-8871 (Electronic); 1438-8871 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Problematic substance use in adolescence and emerging adulthood is a significant public health concern in the United States due to high recurrence of use rates and unmet treatment needs coupled with increased use. Consequently, there is a need for both improved service utilization and availability of recovery supports. Given the ubiquitous use of the internet and social media via smartphones, a viable option is to design digital treatments and recovery support services to include internet and social media platforms.
OBJECTIVE: Although digital treatments delivered through social media and the internet are a possibility, it is unclear how interventions using these tools should be tailored for groups with problematic substance use. There is limited research comparing consumer trends of use of social media platforms, use of platform features, and vulnerability of exposure to drug cues online. The goal of this study was to compare digital platforms used among adolescents (Generation Zs, age 13-17) and emerging adults (Millennials, age 18-35) attending outpatient substance use treatment and to examine receptiveness toward these platforms in order to support substance use treatment and recovery.
METHODS: Generation Zs and Millennials enrolled in outpatient substance use treatment (n=164) completed a survey examining social media use, digital intervention acceptability, frequency of substance exposure, and substance use experiences. Generation Zs (n=53) completed the survey in July 2018. Millennials (n=111) completed the survey in May 2016.
RESULTS: Generation Zs had an average age of 15.66 (SD 1.18) years and primarily identified as male (50.9%). Millennials had an average age of 27.66 (SD 5.12) years and also primarily identified as male (75.7%). Most participants owned a social media account (Millennials: 82.0%, Generation Zs: 94.3%) and used it daily (Millennials: 67.6%, Generation Zs: 79.2%); however, Generation Zs were more likely to use Instagram and Snapchat, whereas Millennials were more likely to use Facebook. Further, Generation Zs were more likely to use the features within social media platforms (eg, instant messaging: Millennials: 55.0%, Generation Zs: 79.2%; watching videos: Millennials: 56.8%, Generation Zs: 81.1%). Many participants observed drug cues on social media (Millennials: 67.5%, Generation Zs: 71.7%). However, fewer observed recovery information on social media (Millennials: 30.6%, Generation Zs: 34.0%). Participants felt that social media (Millennials: 55.0%, Generation Zs: 49.1%), a mobile phone app (Millennials: 36.9%, Generation Zs: 45.3%), texting (Millennials: 28.8%, Generation Zs: 45.3%), or a website (Millennials: 39.6%, Generation Zs: 32.1%) would be useful in delivering recovery support.
CONCLUSIONS: Given the high rates of exposure to drug cues on social media, disseminating recovery support within a social media platform may be the ideal just-in-time intervention needed to decrease the rates of recurrent drug use. However, our results suggest that cross-platform solutions capable of transcending generational preferences are necessary and one-size-fits-all digital interventions should be avoided.
Ashford, Robert D; Brown, Austin M; McDaniel, Jessica; Curtis, Brenda
In: Subst Use Misuse, vol. 54, no. 8, pp. 1376–1384, 2019, ISSN: 1532-2491 (Electronic); 1082-6084 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Labels such as "addict" and "substance abuser" have been found to elicit implicit and explicit stigma among the general public previously. The difference in the levels of this bias among individuals in recovery and those employed in the health profession has not yet been identified, however. The current study seeks to answer this question using measures of implicit bias.
METHODS: A subset sample (n = 299) from a previously completed study (n = 1288) was selected for analysis. Mixed-model ANOVA tests were completed to identify variance between d-prime automatic association scores with the terms "addict" and "substance abuser" among individuals in recovery and those identified as working in the health professions.
RESULTS: Individuals in recovery did not have lower negative associations with either term, whereas individuals employed as health professionals had greater negative associations with the term "substance abuser" but did not have greater negative associations with the term "addict."
CONCLUSIONS: Results provide further evidence that previously identified stigmatizing labels have the potential to influence medical care and medical practitioner perceptions of individuals with substance use disorders and should be avoided. Further exploration into the role negative associations derived from commonly used labels have in the individual recovery process is needed to draw appropriate recommendations.
Ashford, Robert; Brown, Austin; Ryding, Rachel; Curtis, Brenda
In: Addiction Research and Theory, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 1-11, 2019.
Ashford, Robert; Brown, Austin; Canode, Brent; McDaniel, Jessica; Curtis, Brenda
In: Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 462-480, 2019.
Bragard, Elise; Fisher, Celia B; Curtis, Brenda L
In: Ethics & Behavior, vol. 0, no. 0, pp. 1-15, 2019.
Ashford, Robert D; Curtis, Brenda; Brown, Austin M
In: Harm Reduct J, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 52, 2018, ISSN: 1477-7517 (Electronic); 1477-7517 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) is often considered at odds with harm reduction strategies. More recently, harm reduction has been categorized as both a pathway to recovery and a series of services to reduce the harmful consequences of substance use. Peer recovery support services (PRSS) are effective in improving SUD outcomes, as well as improving the engagement and effectiveness of harm reduction programs.
METHODS: This study provides an initial evaluation of a hybrid recovery community organization providing PRSS as well as peer-based harm reduction services via a syringe exchange program. Administrative data collected during normal operations of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery were analyzed using Pearson chi-square tests and Monte Carlo chi-square tests.
RESULTS: Intravenous substance-using participants (N = 417) had an average of 2.14 engagements (SD = 2.59) with the program. Over the evaluation period, a range of 5345-8995 sterile syringes were provided, with a range of 600-1530 used syringes collected. Participant housing status, criminal justice status, and previous health diagnosis were all significantly related to whether they had multiple engagements.
CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that recovery community organizations are well situated and staffed to also provide harm reduction services, such as syringe exchange programs. Given the relationship between engagement and participant housing, criminal justice status, and previous health diagnosis, recommendations for service delivery include additional education and outreach for homeless, justice-involved, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals.
Ashford, Robert D; Brown, Austin M; Curtis, Brenda
In: Drug Alcohol Depend, vol. 189, pp. 131-138, 2018, ISSN: 1879-0046 (Electronic); 0376-8716 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: The general public, treatment professionals, and healthcare professionals have been found to exhibit an explicit negative bias towards substance use and individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD). Terms such as "substance abuser" and "opioid addict" have shown to elicit greater negative explicit bias. However, other common terms have yet to be empirically studied.
METHODS: 1,288 participants were recruited from ResearchMatch. Participants were assigned into one of seven groups with different hypothesized stigmatizing and non-stigmatizing terms. Participants completed a Go/No Association Task (GNAT) and vignette-based social distance scale. Repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to analyze the GNAT results, and one-way ANOVAs were used to analyze vignette results.
RESULTS: The terms "substance abuser", "addict", "alcoholic", and "opioid addict", were strongly associated with the negative and significantly different from the positive counterterms. "Relapse" and "Recurrence of Use" were strongly associated with the negative; however, the strength of the "recurrence of use" positive association was higher and significantly different from the "relapse" positive association. "Pharmacotherapy" was strongly associated with the positive and significantly different than "medication-assisted treatment". Both "medication-assisted recovery" and "long-term recovery" were strongly associated with the positive, and significantly different from the negative association.
CONCLUSIONS: Results support calls to cease use of the terms "addict", "alcoholic", "opioid addict", and "substance abuser". Additionally, it is suggested that "recurrence of use" and "pharmacotherapy" be used for their overall positive benefits. Both "medication-assisted recovery" and "long-term recovery" are positive terms and can be used when applicable without promoting stigma.
Curtis, Brenda L; Lookatch, Samantha J; Ramo, Danielle E; McKay, James R; Feinn, Richard S; Kranzler, Henry R
In: Alcohol Clin Exp Res, vol. 42, no. 6, pp. 978–986, 2018, ISSN: 1530-0277 (Electronic); 0145-6008 (Linking).
Despite the pervasive use of social media by young adults, there is comparatively little known about whether, and how, engagement in social media influences this group's drinking patterns and risk of alcohol-related problems. We examined the relations between young adults' alcohol-related social media engagement (defined as the posting, liking, commenting, and viewing of alcohol-related social media content) and their drinking behavior and problems. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating the association of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems with alcohol-related social media engagement. Summary baseline variables regarding the social media platform used (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), social media measures assessed (e.g., number of alcohol photographs posted), alcohol measures (e.g., Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and Timeline Follow back Interview), and the number of time points at which data were collected were extracted from each published study. We used the Q statistic to examine heterogeneity in the correlations between alcohol-related social media engagement and both drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems. Because there was significant heterogeneity, we used a random-effects model to evaluate the difference from zero of the weighted aggregate correlations. We used metaregression with study characteristics as moderators to test for moderators of the observed heterogeneity. Following screening, 19 articles met inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis. The primary findings indicated a statistically significant relationship and moderate effect sizes between alcohol-related social media engagement and both alcohol consumption (r = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.29 to 0.44, p < 0.001) and alcohol-related problems (r = 0.37, 95% CI: 0.21 to 0.51, p < 0.001). There was significant heterogeneity among studies. Two significant predictors of heterogeneity were (i) whether there was joint measurement of alcohol-related social media engagement and drinking behavior or these were measured on different occasions and (ii) whether measurements were taken by self-report or observation of social media engagement. We found moderate-sized effects across the 19 studies: Greater alcohol-related social media engagement was correlated with both greater self-reported drinking and alcohol-related problems. Further research to determine the causal direction of these associations could provide opportunities for social media-based interventions with young drinkers aimed at reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol-related adverse consequences.
Curtis, Brenda; Giorgi, Salvatore; Buffone, Anneke E K; Ungar, Lyle H; Ashford, Robert D; Hemmons, Jessie; Summers, Dan; Hamilton, Casey; Schwartz, H Andrew
In: PLoS One, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. e0194290, 2018, ISSN: 1932-6203 (Electronic); 1932-6203 (Linking).
OBJECTIVES: The current study analyzes a large set of Twitter data from 1,384 US counties to determine whether excessive alcohol consumption rates can be predicted by the words being posted from each county.
METHODS: Data from over 138 million county-level tweets were analyzed using predictive modeling, differential language analysis, and mediating language analysis.
RESULTS: Twitter language data captures cross-sectional patterns of excessive alcohol consumption beyond that of sociodemographic factors (e.g. age, gender, race, income, education), and can be used to accurately predict rates of excessive alcohol consumption. Additionally, mediation analysis found that Twitter topics (e.g. 'ready gettin leave') can explain much of the variance associated between socioeconomics and excessive alcohol consumption.
CONCLUSIONS: Twitter data can be used to predict public health concerns such as excessive drinking. Using mediation analysis in conjunction with predictive modeling allows for a high portion of the variance associated with socioeconomic status to be explained.
Ashford, Robert D; Lynch, Kevin; Curtis, Brenda
In: J Med Internet Res, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. e84, 2018, ISSN: 1438-8871 (Electronic); 1438-8871 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Substance use disorder research and practice have not yet taken advantage of emerging changes in communication patterns. While internet and social media use is widespread in the general population, little is known about how these mediums are used in substance use disorder treatment.
OBJECTIVE: The aims of this paper were to provide data on patients' with substance use disorders mobile phone ownership rates, usage patterns on multiple digital platforms (social media, internet, computer, and mobile apps), and their interest in the use of these platforms to monitor personal recovery.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of patients in 4 intensive outpatient substance use disorder treatment facilities in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Logistic regressions were used to examine associations among variables.
RESULTS: Survey participants (N=259) were mostly male (72.9%, 188/259), African American (62.9%, 163/259), with annual incomes less than US $10,000 (62.5%, 161/259), and averaged 39 (SD 12.24) years of age. The vast majority of participants (93.8%, 243/259) owned a mobile phone and about 64.1% (166/259) owned a mobile phone with app capabilities, of which 85.1% (207/243) accessed the internet mainly through their mobile phone. There were no significant differences in age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status by computer usage, internet usage, number of times participants changed their phone, type of mobile phone contract, or whether participants had unlimited calling plans. The sample was grouped into 3 age groups (Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers). The rates of having a social media account differed across these 3 age groups with significant differences between Baby Boomers and both Generation Xers and Millennials (P<.001 in each case). Among participants with a social media account (73.6%, 190/259), most (76.1%, 144/190) reported using it daily and nearly all (98.2%, 186/190) used Facebook. Nearly half of participants (47.4%, 90/190) reported viewing content on social media that triggered substance cravings and an equal percentage reported being exposed to recovery information on social media. There was a significant difference in rates of reporting viewing recovery information on social media across the 3 age groups with Baby Boomers reporting higher rates than Millennials (P<.001). The majority of respondents (70.1%, 181/259) said they would prefer to use a relapse prevention app on their phone or receive SMS (short message service) relapse prevention text messages (72.3%, 186/259), and nearly half (49.1%, 127/259) expressed an interest in receiving support by allowing social media accounts to be monitored as a relapse prevention technique.
CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this is the first and largest study examining the online behavior and preferences regarding technology-based substance use disorder treatment interventions in a population of patients enrolled in community outpatient treatment programs. Patients were generally receptive to using relapse prevention apps and text messaging interventions and a substantial proportion supported social media surveillance tools. However, the design of technology-based interventions remains as many participants have monthly telephone plans which may limit continuity.
Ashford, Robert D.; Brown, Austin M.; Eisenhart, Emily; Thompson-Heller, Anne; Curtis, Brenda
In: Addiction Research & Theory, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 405-413, 2018.
As a relatively new field of practice, collegiate recovery programs (CRP), have used a practice-informed approach as a means of establishing best practices and pedagogy. While research on collegiate recovery programs and populations of students in recovery is growing, much of the qualitative studies have yet to be synthesized into a useful organizing matrix. This study utilizes meta-synthesis design to explore the leading qualitative research on student experiences in collegiate recovery. From this synthesis, researchers identified six metaphors from ten included studies from 2000–2017. The six metaphors of social connectivity, recovery supports, drop-in recovery centers, internalized feelings, coping mechanisms, and conflict of recovery/student status, support much of the preexisting practices and provide a critical framework for future program design, service delivery, and research.
Feinn, Richard; Curtis, Brenda; Kranzler, Henry R
In: J Clin Psychiatry, vol. 77, no. 3, pp. e278-82, 2016, ISSN: 1555-2101 (Electronic); 0160-6689 (Linking).
BACKGROUND: Despite topiramate's ability to reduce heavy drinking, its adverse effects may limit its clinical utility.
METHOD: To evaluate the risks and benefits of topiramate, we reanalyzed data from a completed trial of the medication in 138 heavy drinkers whose goal was to reduce their drinking to safe levels. We used the number of patients who had no heavy drinking days during the last 4 weeks of treatment to calculate topiramate's number needed to treat (NNT). To balance the risks and benefits of topiramate, we adjusted the NNT using 2 different levels of adverse event severity: moderate or greater (NNT-AEmod+) and severe or greater (NNT-AEsev+). This measure helps to guide the clinical use of topiramate in heavy drinkers by incorporating both its beneficial and adverse effects in a single measure. Because a polymorphism (rs2832407) in the gene encoding a kainate receptor subunit appears to moderate topiramate's effects in heavy drinkers, we repeated the analyses based on rs2832407 genotype (C-homozygote vs A-allele carrier) in the European American subsample (n = 122).
RESULTS: Overall, the NNT for topiramate was 5.29, the NNT-AEmod+ was 7.52, and the NNT-AEsev+ was 6.12. Among European Americans with the rs2832407*CC genotype, the NNT was 2.28, the NNT-AEmod+ was 2.63, and the NNT-AEsev+ was 2.56. In contrast, for rs2832407*A-allele carriers, the NNT was 180.00, the NNT-AEmod+ was 322.16, and the NNT-AEsev+ was 217.45.
CONCLUSIONS: In this sample of heavy drinkers, topiramate had a clinically important treatment effect that was most evident in European Americans with the rs2832407*CC genotype. In that group, in particular, it had a robust treatment effect, even when adjusted for adverse events.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00626925.
Meyers, Kathleen; Kaynak, Ovgu; Bresani, Elena; Curtis, Brenda; McNamara, Ashley; Brownfield, Kristine; Kirby, Kimberly C
In: Int J Drug Policy, vol. 26, no. 7, pp. 670-4, 2015, ISSN: 1873-4758 (Electronic); 0955-3959 (Linking).
"Bath salts", a derivative of cathinone, a naturally occurring beta-ketone amphetamine analogue found in the leaves of the khat (Catha edulis) plant, is a potent class of designer drugs associated with significant medical and psychiatric consequences. They are commonly used among 20-29 year olds, a group with easy access to the Internet and an inclination to purchase online. Therefore, the Internet has the potential to play a significant role in the distribution and associated consequences of these "legal highs".
Google searches were used to determine bath salts availability on retail websites and how different search terms affected the proportion of retail websites obtained. Retail websites were reviewed by two independent raters who examined content with a focus on characteristics that increase the likelihood of online sales.
Of the 250 websites found, 31 were unique retail websites. Most retail website hits resulted when a product name was used as the search term. The top three countries hosting retail websites were registered in the United States (n=14; 45%), Germany (n=7; 23%), and the United Kingdom (n=3; 10%). These online drug suppliers provided considerable information and purchasing choice about a variety of synthetic cathinones, legitimized their sites by using recognizable images, online chat features, and mainstream payment and shipping methods, and employed characteristics that promote online purchases.
Online designer drug suppliers use sophisticated methods to market unregulated products to consumers. The international community has taken diverse approaches to address designer drugs: legislative bans, harm reduction approaches, an interim regulated legal market. Multifaceted efforts that target bath salt users, suppliers, and emergency/poison control entities are critical to comprehensively address bath salt ingestion and its consequences.
Curtis, Brenda; Alanis-Hirsch, Kelly; Kaynak, Ovgu; Cacciola, John; Meyers, Kathy; McLellan, Anthony Thomas
In: Drug Alcohol Rev, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 105-108, 2015, ISBN: 1465-3362 (Electronic); 0959-5236 (Linking).
INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: This article reports a content analysis of Internet websites related to an emerging designer drug, synthetic cannabinoids. The number of synthetic cannabinoids searchers in the USA has steadily increased from November 2008 to November 2011.
DESIGN AND METHODS: To determine the information available on the Internet in relation to synthetic cannabinoids, sites were identified using the Google search engine and the search term 'herbal incense'. The first 100 consecutive sites were visited and classified by two coders. The websites were evaluated for type of content (retail, information, news, other). US unique monthly visitor data were examined for the top 10 retail sites, and these sites were coded for the quality of information available regarding the legality of synthetic cannabinoids sale and use.
RESULTS: The Google search yielded 2,730,000 sites for 'herbal incense' (for comparison of search terms: 'synthetic marijuana', 1,170,000; 'K2 Spice', 247,000; and 'synthetic weed', 122,000). Moreover, in the Google search, 87% of the sites were retail sites, 5% news, 4% informational and 4% non-synthetic cannabinoid sites. DISCUSSION AND
CONCLUSIONS: Many tools found within Google free services hold promise in providing a technique to identify emerging drug markets. We recommend continued surveillance of the Internet using the online tools presented in this brief report by both drug researchers and policy-makers to identify the emerging trends in synthetic drugs' availability and interest.
Curtis, Brenda L
In: J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 58-70, 2014, ISSN: 1556-2654 (Electronic); 1556-2646 (Linking).
Social networking sites and online advertising organizations provide HIV/AIDS researchers access to target populations, often reaching difficult-to-reach populations. However, this benefit to researchers raises many issues for the protections of prospective research participants. Traditional recruitment procedures have involved straightforward transactions between the researchers and prospective participants; online recruitment is a more complex and indirect form of communication involving many parties engaged in the collecting, aggregating, and storing of research participant data. Thus, increased access to online data has challenged the adequacy of current and established procedures for participants' protections, such as informed consent and privacy/confidentiality. Internet-based HIV/AIDS research recruitment and its ethical challenges are described, and research participant safeguards and best practices are outlined.