Research News Roundup: October 14, 2021

    Development and Assessment of the Usability of a Web-based Referral to Treatment Tool for Persons with Substance Use Disorders

    Journal: BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 2021, doi: 10.1186/s12911-021-01620-9

    Authors: Kelli Thoele, Mengmeng Yu, Mandeep Dhillon, Robert Skipworth Comer, Hannah L. Maxey, Robin Newhouse & Ukamaka M. Oruche

    Background: Hospitalized people with unhealthy substance use should be referred to treatment. Although inpatient referral resources are often available, clinicians report that outpatient referral networks are not well-established. The purpose of this manuscript is to describe the development and usability testing of a web-based Referral to Treatment Tool (RTT © 2020 Trustees of Indiana University, all rights reserved) designed to identify treatment centers for people with unhealthy substance use.

    Results: The RTT was conceptualized, developed, and then populated with public use and local survey data of treatment centers from 14 market ZIP codes of hospitals participating in an SBIRT implementation study. The tool underwent initial heuristic testing, followed by usability testing at three hospitals within a large healthcare system in the Midwest region of the United States. Administrative (n = 6) and provider (n = 12) users of the RTT completed a list of tasks and provided feedback through Think-Aloud Tests, the System Usability Scale, and in-person interviews. Patients (n = 4) assessed multiple versions of a take-home printout of referral sites that met their specifications and completed in-person interviews to provide feedback. Each administrative task was completed in less than 3 min, and providers took an average of 4 min and 3 s to identify appropriate referral sites for a patient and print a referral list for the patient. The mean System Usability Scale score (M = 77.22, SD = 15.57, p = 0.03) was significantly higher than the passable score of 70, indicating favorable perceptions of the usability of the RTT. Administrative and provider users felt that the RTT was useful and easy to use, but the settings and search features could be refined. Patients indicated that the printouts contained useful information and that it was helpful to include multiple referral sites on the printout.

    Conclusion: The web-based referral tool has the potential to facilitate voluntary outpatient referral to treatment for patients with unhealthy substance use. The RTT can be customized for a variety of health care settings and patient needs. Additional revisions based on usability testing results are needed to prepare for a broader multi-site clinical evaluation.

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

    Covid-19 Interface with Drug Misuse and Substance Use Disorders

    Journal: Neuropharmacology, 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108766.

    Authors: Irma E. Cisneros & Kathryn A. Cunningham


    The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic intensified the already catastrophic drug overdose and substance use disorder (SUD) epidemic, signaling a syndemic as social isolation, economic and mental health distress, and disrupted treatment services disproportionally impacted this vulnerable population. Along with these social and societal factors, biological factors triggered by intense stress intertwined with incumbent overactivity of the immune system and the resulting inflammatory outcomes may impact the functional status of the central nervous system (CNS). We review the literature concerning SARS-CoV2 infiltration and infection in the CNS and the prospects of synergy between stress, inflammation, and kynurenine pathway function during illness and recovery from Covid-19. Taken together, inflammation and neuroimmune signaling, a consequence of Covid-19 infection, may dysregulate critical pathways and underlie maladaptive changes in the CNS, to exacerbate the development of neuropsychiatric symptoms and in the vulnerability to develop SUD. This article is part of the special Issue on ‘Vulnerabilities to Substance Abuse.’

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

    Clinical Interventions for Adults with Comorbid Alcohol Use and Depressive Disorders: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis

    Journal: Plos Medicine, 2021, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003822

    Authors: Sean Grant, Gulrez Azhar, Eugeniu Han, Marika Booth, Aneesa Motala, Jody Larkin & Susanne Hempel

    Background: Uncertainty remains regarding the effectiveness of treatments for patients diagnosed with both an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and depressive disorder. This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of clinical interventions for improving symptoms of adults with co-occurring AUDs and depressive disorders.

    Methods and findings: We searched CINAHL,, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Excerpta Medica Database, International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science from inception to December 2020. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating clinical interventions for adults with co-occurring AUDs and depressive disorders. Two independent reviewers extracted study-level information and outcome data. We assessed risk of bias using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool, used frequentist random effects models for network meta-analyses, and rated our confidence in effect estimates using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Primary outcomes were remission from depression and alcohol use. Secondary outcomes were depressive symptoms, alcohol use, heavy drinking, health-related quality of life, functional status, and adverse events. We used standardized mean differences (SMDs) for continuous outcomes and odds ratios (ORs) for dichotomous outcomes to estimate intervention effects. Overall, 36 RCTs with 2,729 participants evaluated 14 pharmacological and 4 psychological interventions adjunctive to treatment as usual (TAU). Studies were published from 1971 to 2019, conducted in 13 countries, and had a median sample size of 50 participants (range: 14 to 350 participants). We have very low confidence in all estimates of intervention effects on our primary outcomes (i.e., remission from depression and remission from alcohol use). We have moderate confidence that cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs) demonstrated greater benefit than no additional treatment (SMD = −0.84; 95% confidence interval [CI], −1.05 to −0.63; p < 0.001) for depressive symptoms and low confidence (SMD = −0.25; 95% CI, −0.47 to −0.04; p = 0.021) for alcohol use. We have low confidence that tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) demonstrated greater benefit than placebo (SMD = −0.37; 95% CI, −0.72 to −0.02, p = 0.038) for depressive symptoms. Compared with placebo, we have moderate confidence that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) demonstrated greater benefit for functional status (SMD = −0.92; 95% CI, −1.36 to −0.47, p < 0.001) and low confidence for alcohol use (SMD = −0.30; 95% CI, −0.59 to −0.02, p = 0.039). However, we have moderate confidence that patients receiving SSRIs also were more likely to experience an adverse event (OR = 2.20; 95% CI, 0.94 to 5.16, p = 0.07). We have very low confidence in all other effect estimates, and we did not have high confidence in any effect estimates. Limitations include the sparsity of evidence on intervention effects over the long term, risks of attrition bias, and heterogeneous definitions of adverse events in the evidence base.

    Conclusions: We are very uncertain about the existence (or not) of any non-null effects for our primary outcomes of remission from depression and remission from alcohol use. The available evidence does suggest that CBTs likely reduced, and TCAs may have resulted in a slight reduction of depressive symptoms. SSRIs likely increased functional status, and SSRIs and CBTs may have resulted in a slight reduction of alcohol use. However, patients receiving SSRIs also likely had an increased risk of experiencing an adverse event. In addition, these conclusions only apply to postintervention and are not against active comparators, limiting the understanding of the efficacy of interventions in the long term as well as the comparative effectiveness of active treatments. As we did not have high confidence in any outcomes, additional studies are warranted to provide more conclusive evidence.

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

    Alcohol and Cannabis Use Disorder Symptom Severity, Conduct Disorder, and Callous-Unemotional Traits and Impairment in Expression Recognition

    Journal: Front Psychiatry, 2021, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.714189

    Authors: Robert James R. Blair, Johannah Bashford-Largo, Ru Zhang, Avantika Mathur, Amanda Schwartz, Jaimie Elowsky, Patrick Tyler, Christopher J. Hammond, Francesca M. Filbey, Matthew Dobbertin, Sahil Bajaj and Karina S. Blair

    Background: Alcohol and cannabis are commonly used by adolescents in the United States. Both alcohol use disorder (AUD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD) have been associated with reduced emotion expression recognition ability. However, this work has primarily occurred in adults and has not considered neuro-cognitive risk factors associated with conduct problems that commonly co-occur with, and precede, substance use. Yet, conduct problems are also associated with reduced emotion expression recognition ability. The current study investigated the extent of negative association between AUD and CUD symptom severity and expression recognition ability over and above any association of expression recognition ability with conduct problems [conduct disorder (CD) diagnostic status].

    Methods: In this study, 152 youths aged 12.5–18 years (56 female; 60 diagnosed with CD) completed a rapid presentation morphed intensity facial expression task to investigate the association between relative severity of AUD/CUD and expression recognition ability.

    Results: Cannabis use disorder identification test (CUDIT) scores were negatively associated with recognition accuracy for higher intensity (particularly sad and fearful) expressions while CD diagnostic status was independently negatively associated with recognition of sad expressions. Alcohol use disorder identification test (AUDIT) scores were not significantly associated with expression recognition ability.

    Conclusions: These data indicate that relative severity of CUD and CD diagnostic status are statistically independently associated with reduced expression recognition ability. On the basis of these data, we speculate that increased cannabis use during adolescence may exacerbate a neuro-cognitive risk factor for the emergence of aggression and antisocial behavior.

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

    Relationship between Food Insecurity and Smoking Status among Women Living with and at Risk for HIV in the USA: a Cohort Study

    Journal: BMJ Open, 2021, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-054903

    Authors: Lila A. Sheira, Edward A. Frongillo, Judith Hahn, Kartika Palar, Elise D. Riley, Tracey E. Wilson, Adebola Adedimeji, Daniel Merenstein, Mardge Cohen, Eryka L. Wentz, Adaora A. Adimora, Ighovwerha Ofotokun, Lisa Metsch, Janet M Turan, Phyllis C. Tien & Sheri D. Weiser


    Objectives: People living with HIV (PLHIV) in the USA, particularly women, have a higher prevalence of food insecurity than the general population. Cigarette smoking among PLHIV is common (42%), and PLHIV are 6–13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than AIDS-related causes. This study sought to investigate the associations between food security status and smoking status and severity among a cohort of predominantly low-income women of colour living with and without HIV in the USA.

    Design: Women enrolled in an ongoing longitudinal cohort study from 2013 to 2015.

    Setting: Nine participating sites across the USA.

    Participants: 2553 participants enrolled in the Food Insecurity Sub-Study of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, a multisite cohort study of US women living with HIV and demographically similar HIV-seronegative women.

    Outcomes: Current cigarette smoking status and intensity were self-reported. We used cross-sectional and longitudinal logistic and Tobit regressions to assess associations of food security status and changes in food security status with smoking status and intensity.

    Results: The median age was 48. Most respondents were African-American/black (72%) and living with HIV (71%). Over half had annual incomes ≤US$12 000 (52%). Food insecurity (44%) and cigarette smoking (42%) were prevalent. In analyses adjusting for common sociodemographic characteristics, all categories of food insecurity were associated with greater odds of current smoking compared with food-secure women. Changes in food insecurity were also associated with increased odds of smoking. Any food insecurity was associated with higher smoking intensity.

    Conclusions: Food insecurity over time was associated with smoking in this cohort of predominantly low-income women of colour living with or at risk of HIV. Integrating alleviation of food insecurity into smoking cessation programmes may be an effective method to reduce the smoking prevalence and disproportionate lung cancer mortality rate particularly among PLHIV.

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


    October 2021