Research News Roundup: February 10, 2022

    State Earned Income Tax Credits and Depression and Alcohol Misuse among Women with Children

    Journal: Preventive Medicine Reports, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.10169

    Authors: Erin R. Morgan, Heather D. Hill, Stephen J. Mooney, Frederick P. Rivara & Ali Rowhani-Rahbar


    About 30% of single mothers in the US live at or below the poverty line. Poverty is associated with higher risk of depression and substance use. We investigated associations between state earned income tax credit (EITC) policies and reported depressive symptoms and alcohol misuse among birthing parents who responded to Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey spanning 1990–2017. Nearly half of birthing parents reported no more than a high school education (45.4%; 95% CI: 45.3%–45.6%). An estimated 28.5% of birthing parents reported binge drinking in the three months prior to conception (95% CI: 28.3–28.8%). Among birthing parents, each 10 percentage-point increase in the generosity of state EITC relative to the federal EITC was associated with a lower prevalence of binge drinking (prevalence ratio = 0.96; 95% CI: 0.93–0.99) prior to conception. This association was more pronounced among birthing parents with no more than high school education (prevalence ratio = 0.92; 95% CI: 0.88–0.97). There was no association between state EITC and number of reported depressive symptoms prior to conception or after birth, except among those with lower educational attainment (prevalence ratio = 0.94; 95% CI: 0.89–0.99). Anti-poverty policies such as EITC may reduce the burden of alcohol misuse, especially among people with children.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Journal: Plos One, 2022, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0263016

    Authors: Margie R. Skeer, Rachael A. Sabelli, Katherine M. Rancaño, Michelle Lee-Bravatti, Emma C. Ryan, Misha Eliasziw & Anthony Spirito


    Background: Substance use among adolescents in the U.S. is associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes in the long-term. Universal youth-focused substance use prevention programs have demonstrated effectiveness but are often not sustainable due to the significant amount of time, effort, and resources required. We describe a trial protocol for a brief, low-participant-burden intervention to improve substance use-specific parent-child communication through the promotion of family meals and increased parental engagement.

    Methods: This study is a parallel-group randomized controlled trial designed to assess the efficacy of a 13-week intervention. A total of 500 dyads of parents and their 5th-7th grade children are recruited from across Massachusetts. Dyads are randomized to the intervention or attention-control condition using block urn randomization, based on child grade, gender, and school. Parents / guardians in the substance use preventive intervention arm receive a short handbook, attend two meetings with an interventionist, and receive two SMS messages per week. Parents/guardians in the control arm receive the same dose but with content focused on nutrition, physical activity, and weight stigma. Participant dyads submit videos of family meals, audio recordings of prompted conversations, and quantitative surveys over an 18-month period (baseline, 3, 6, 12, 18 months post-intervention). The primary outcomes measure the quantity and quality of parent-child substance use conversations and proximal child indicators (i.e., substance use attitudes and expectancies, affiliation with substance-using peers, and intentions and willingness to use substances). The secondary outcome is child substance use initiation.

    Discussion: This is a novel, brief, communication-focused intervention for parents/guardians that was designed to reduce participant burden. The intervention has the potential to improve parent-child engagement and communication and conversations about substance use specifically and decrease child substance use risk factors and substance use initiation.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Recent Perceived Stress, Amygdala Reactivity to Acute Psychosocial Stress, and Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Adolescents and Young Adults with Bipolar Disorder

    Journal: Frontiers Psychiatry, 2021, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.767309

    Authors: Vanessa Le, Dylan E. Kirsch, Valeria Tretyak, Wade Weber, Stephen M. Strakowski & Elizabeth T. C. Lippard


    Background: Psychosocial stress negatively affects the clinical course of bipolar disorder. Studies primarily focused on adults with bipolar disorder suggest the impact of stress is progressive, i.e., stress response sensitizes with age. Neural mechanisms underlying stress sensitization are unknown. As stress-related mechanisms contribute to alcohol/substance use disorders, variation in stress response in youth with bipolar disorder may contribute to development of co-occurring alcohol/substance use disorders. This study investigated relations between psychosocial stress, amygdala reactivity, and alcohol and cannabis use in youth with bipolar disorder, compared to typically developing youth.

    Methods: Forty-two adolescents/young adults [19 with bipolar disorder, 23 typically developing, 71% female, agemean ± SD = 21 ± 2 years] completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Daily Drinking Questionnaire modified for heaviest drinking week, and a modified Montreal Imaging Stress functional MRI Task. Amygdala activation was measured for both the control and stress conditions. Main effects of group, condition, total PSS, and their interactions on amygdala activation were modeled. Relationships between amygdala response to acute stress with recent alcohol/cannabis use were investigated.

    Results: Greater perceived stress related to increased right amygdala activation in response to the stress, compared to control, condition in bipolar disorder, but not in typically developing youth (group × condition × PSS interaction, p = 0.02). Greater amygdala reactivity to acute stress correlated with greater quantity and frequency of alcohol use and frequency of cannabis use in bipolar disorder.

    Conclusion: Recent perceived stress is associated with changes in amygdala activation during acute stress with amygdala reactivity related to alcohol/cannabis use in youth with bipolar disorder.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Changes in Marijuana and Nicotine Vaping Perceptions and Use Behaviors among Young Adults since the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study

    Journal: Addictive Behaviors Reports, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.abrep.2022.100408.

    Authors: Kathleen R. Case, Stephanie L. Clendennen, Jay Shah, Joel Tsevat & Melissa B. Harrell


    Background: Research is lacking on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marijuana vaping behaviors; a notable limitation as marijuana vaping has been previously associated with respiratory issues among young people. This qualitative study explored how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced vaping perceptions and behaviors among young adults (18 to 25-year-olds).

    Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 50 regular marijuana vapers. Individuals were eligible if they vaped marijuana at least 3Â days per week (exclusively or dual use with nicotine). Interview transcripts were analyzed using deductive coding processes to identify themes. Differences in themes by gender and user status (regular marijuana versus regular dual vapers) were explored.

    Results: While many participants indicated that the pandemic negatively impacted their attitudes about vaping, participants also noted that their negative attitudes did not translate into reductions in use. Overall, 54% of participants reported increasing vaping during COVID-19. For both regular dual vapers and marijuana vapers, boredom was a prominent theme for increases in vaping. Lack of accessibility of marijuana was cited as a reason for decreasing marijuana among regular marijuana vapers but not for regular dual vapers. Males reported more unchanged attitudes about vaping and more males than females reported still sharing their devices.

    Conclusions: More than half of participants reported increasing their vaping behaviors since the COVID-19 pandemic despite concerns about the potential for vaping to adversely impact lung and immune health. As the U.S. adapts to the COVID-19 pandemic, interventions should address factors that may contribute to increases in use behaviors.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    The Evolution of the Overdose Epidemic and CDC's Research Response: A Commentary

    Journal: Drugs in Context, 2021, doi: org/10.7573/dic.2021-8-2

    Authors: Kristin M Holland, Lara DePadilla, Derrick W Gervin, Erin M Parker & Marcienne Wright


    The United States drug overdose epidemic has reached an all-time high, with 2020 provisional mortality data indicating that over 90,000 lives were lost to drug overdose in the 12-months ending in December 2020. The overdose epidemic has evolved over time with respect to the substances involved in overdose deaths and also with respect to the geographic distribution and epidemiology of deaths involving specific substances. Thus, a nimble approach to addressing the epidemic and preventing future overdoses is needed. CDC’s response to the overdose epidemic supports implementation efforts at the state and local levels, where partners can better detect and respond to the evolving drug overdose landscape and implement prevention measures that meet their needs. CDC’s framework for responding to the overdose epidemic focuses on five areas: (1) conducting surveillance and research; (2) building state, local and tribal capacity; (3) supporting providers, health systems and payers; (4) partnering with public safety; and (5) empowering consumers to make safe choices. Central to informing the implementation of evidence-based strategies to prevent drug overdose is rigorous research that undergirds the evidence. This Commentary describes recent investments in overdose prevention research and outlines opportunities for ensuring that future research efforts allow for the flexibility necessary to effectively respond to the continually evolving epidemic.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    February 2022