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    Research News Roundup: June 13, 2024

    Prevalence of Co-Occurring Diagnoses in People Exposed to Alcohol Prenatally: Findings from a Meta-Analysis

    Journal: Journal of Affective Disorders, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2024.05.035

    Authors: C. A. Clark, D. Nakhid, G. Baldwin-Oneill, S. LaPointe, M. MacIsaac-Jones, S. Raja, & C. A. McMorris


    Background: Individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) commonly experience co-occurring diagnoses, which are often overlooked and misdiagnosed and have detrimental impacts on accessing appropriate services. The prevalence of these co-occurring diagnoses varies widely in the existing literature and has not been examined in PAE without an FASD diagnosis.

    Method: A search was conducted in five databases and the reference sections of three review papers, finding a total of 2180 studies. 57 studies were included in the final analysis with a cumulative sample size of 29,644. Bayesian modeling was used to determine aggregate prevalence rates of co-occurring disorders and analyze potential moderators.

    Results: 82 % of people with PAE had a co-occurring diagnosis. All disorders had a higher prevalence in individuals with PAE than the general population with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorder, and intellectual disability (ID) being the most prevalent. Age, diagnostic status, and sex moderated the prevalence of multiple disorders.

    Limitations: While prevalence of disorders is crucial information, it does not provide a direct representation of daily functioning and available supports. Results should be interpreted in collaboration with more individualized research to provide the most comprehensive representation of the experience of individuals with PAE.

    Conclusions: Co-occurring diagnoses are extremely prevalent in people with PAE, with older individuals, females, and those diagnosed with FASD being most at risk for having a co-occurring disorder. These findings provide a more rigorous examination of the challenges faced by individuals with PAE than has existed in the literature, providing clinicians with information to ensure early identification and effective treatment of concerns to prevent lifelong challenges.

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

    Overdose Prevention Activities Led by Local Public Health Departments, 2019-2023

    Journal: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2024, doi: 10.1186/s13011-024-00612-y

    Authors: April Wisdom, Stephanie Haddad, Madhumita Govindu, Francis Higgins, Nikki Filion, Kate Sullivan, & Cherie Rooks-Peck


    Background: Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased to historic levels in recent years, with provisional estimates indicating more than 111,000 deaths in the 12 months ending July 2023. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Overdose Prevention in collaboration with the National Association of City and County Health Officials, funded local health departments (LHDs) to work on overdose prevention activities. This paper aims to: 1) describe the overdose prevention activities that LHDs implemented during the four eighteen-month funding cycles; 2) identify programmatic successes and areas of opportunity for LHDs to consider when implementing future overdose prevention activities; and to 3) inform policy considerations and future overdose prevention programming at the local level.

    Methods: We used programmatic data to identify overdose prevention activities implemented by 45 LHDs. Activities were double-coded according to the social-ecological model and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Overdose Prevention Strategies and Guiding Principles. We analyzed final codes to identify distribution and overlap of the Strategies and Guiding Principles across the social ecological model co-occurrences.

    Results: Approximately 55.9% (n=123) of the 220 overdose prevention activities that were coded took place at the community level, 32.3% (n=71) at the individual level, 8.6% (n=19) at the relationship level, and 3.2% (n=7) at the policy level. Most of the activities were coded as coordination, collaboration, and integration (n=52, 23.6%), harm reduction (n=51, 23.1%), data and evidence (n=47, 21.4%) or reducing stigma (n=24, 10.9%). Few activities were related to primary prevention (n=14, 6.4%), equity (n=14, 6.4%), recovery support (n=11, 5.0%), and evidence-based treatment (n=7, 3.2%).

    Conclusions: Localities have primarily implemented activities focused on the community and individual levels, with most of these centered around coordination, collaboration, and integration; harm reduction; or data and evidence. This study identified gaps in overdose prevention for LHDs related to treatment and health equity and that more interventions should be implemented at the relationship and policy levels. Continuing these efforts is important as LHDs explore opportunities to enhance and expand their work in various strategy areas across the social ecology. Findings from this study may be used to inform localities as they design and implement future overdose prevention activities.

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

    Novel Medications for Problematic Alcohol Use

    Journal: The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2024, doi: 10.1172/JCI172889

    Authors: Markus Heilig, Katie Witkiewitz, Lara A. Ray, & Lorenzo Leggio


    Alcohol-related harm, a major cause of disease burden globally, affects people along a spectrum of use. When a harmful pattern of drinking is present in the absence of significant behavioral pathology, low-intensity brief interventions that provide information about health consequences of continued use provide large health benefits. At the other end of the spectrum, profound behavioral pathology, including continued use despite knowledge of potentially fatal consequences, warrants a medical diagnosis, and treatment is strongly indicated. Available behavioral and pharmacological treatments are supported by scientific evidence but are vastly underutilized. Discovery of additional medications, with a favorable balance of efficacy versus safety and tolerability can improve clinical uptake of treatment, allow personalized treatment, and improve outcomes. Here, we delineate the clinical conditions when pharmacotherapy should be considered in relation to the main diagnostic systems in use and discuss clinical endpoints that represent meaningful clinical benefits. We then review specific developments in three categories of targets that show promise for expanding the treatment toolkit. GPCRs remain the largest category of successful drug targets across contemporary medicine, and several GPCR targets are currently pursued for alcohol-related indications. Endocrine systems are another established category, and several promising targets have emerged for alcohol indications. Finally, immune modulators have revolutionized treatment of multiple medical conditions, and they may also hold potential to produce benefits in patients with alcohol problems.

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

    How do the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Technology Transfer Centers Decide What Evidence-Based Practices to Disseminate and Determine How to Do So? A Cross-Sectional Study of a National Network

    Journal: Evaluation & the Health Professions, 2024, doi: 10.1177/01632787231225653

    Authors: Kaitlyn Reho, Jon Agley, Ruth Gassman, Jeffrey Roberts, Susan K. R. Heil, & Jharna Katara


    It is important to use evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs) to address major public health issues. However, those who use EBPs in real-world settings often require support in bridging the research-to-practice gap. In the US, one of the largest systems that provides such support is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Technology Transfer Center (TTC) Network. As part of a large external evaluation of the Network, this study examined how TTCs determine which EBPs to promote and how to promote them. Using semi-structured interviews and pre-testing, we developed a “Determinants of Technology Transfer” survey that was completed by 100% of TTCs in the Network. Because the study period overlapped with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also conducted a retrospective pre/post-pandemic comparison of determinants. TTCs reported relying on a broad group of factors when selecting EBPs to disseminate and the methods to do so. Stakeholder and target audience input and needs were consistently the most important determinant (both before and during COVID-19), while some other determinants fluctuated around the pandemic (e.g., public health mandates, instructions in the funding opportunity announcements). We discuss implications of the findings for technology transfer and frame the analyses in terms of the Interactive Systems Framework for Dissemination and Implementation.

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

    Standard Versus Family-Based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment for Adolescent Substance Use in Primary Care: Protocol for a Multisite Randomized Effectiveness Trial

    Journal: JMIR Research Protocols, 2024, doi: 10.2196/54486

    Authors: Aaron Hogue, Nicole P. Porter, Timothy J. Ozechowski, Sara J. Becker, Megan A. O’Grady, Molly Bobek, Monica Cerniglia, Kevin Ambrose, … Sion Kim Harris


    Background: Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for adolescents (SBIRT-A) is widely recommended to promote detection and early intervention for alcohol and other drug (AOD) use in pediatric primary care. Existing SBIRT-A procedures rely almost exclusively on adolescents alone, despite the recognition of caregivers as critical protective factors in adolescent development and AOD use. Moreover, controlled SBIRT-A studies conducted in primary care have yielded inconsistent findings about implementation feasibility and effects on AOD outcomes and overall developmental functioning. There is urgent need to investigate the value of systematically incorporating caregivers in SBIRT-A procedures.

    Objective: This randomized effectiveness trial will advance research and scope on SBIRT-A in primary care by conducting a head-to-head test of 2 conceptually grounded, evidence-informed approaches: a standard adolescent-only approach (SBIRT-A-Standard) versus a more expansive family-based approach (SBIRT-A-Family). The SBIRT-A-Family approach enhances the procedures of the SBIRT-A-Standard approach by screening for AOD risk with both adolescents and caregivers; leveraging multidomain, multireporter AOD risk and protection data to inform case identification and risk categorization; and directly involving caregivers in brief intervention and referral to treatment activities.

    Methods: The study will include 2300 adolescents (aged 12-17 y) and their caregivers attending 1 of 3 hospital-affiliated pediatric settings serving diverse patient populations in major urban areas. Study recruitment, screening, randomization, and all SBIRT-A activities will occur during a single pediatric visit. SBIRT-A procedures will be delivered digitally on handheld tablets using patient-facing and provider-facing programming. Primary outcomes (AOD use, co-occurring behavior problems, and parent-adolescent communication about AOD use) and secondary outcomes (adolescent quality of life, adolescent risk factors, and therapy attendance) will be assessed at screening and initial assessment and 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month follow-ups. The study is well powered to conduct all planned main and moderator (age, sex, race, ethnicity, and youth AOD risk status) analyses.

    Results: This study will be conducted over a 5-year period. Provider training was initiated in year 1 (December 2023). Participant recruitment and follow-up data collection began in year 2 (March 2024). We expect the results from this study to be published in early 2027.

    Conclusions: SBIRT-A is widely endorsed but currently underused in pediatric primary care settings, and questions remain about optimal approaches and overall effectiveness. In particular, referral to treatment procedures in primary care remains virtually untested among youth. In addition, whereas research strongly supports involving families in interventions for adolescent AOD, SBIRT-A effectiveness trial testing approaches that actively engage family members in primary care are absent. This trial is designed to help fill these research gaps to inform the critical health decision of whether and how to include caregivers in SBIRT-A activities conducted in pediatric primary care.

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


    June 2024