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Researchers Study How Drug Treatment Affects Other Aspects of Life

The $300,000 NIH grant will fund testing that could reduce risk for HIV or mental illness.

Written by John Davis

Brown

Brown

Two Texas Tech University researchers recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to find out how drug treatment affects other aspects of a person’s life.

Jennifer Brown, an assistant professor of psychology, and Michael Eriksen, an assistant professor of finance, will use data already collected by NIDA to analyze outcomes across multiple studies to test for the potential benefits of substance abuse treatments to reduce HIV risk.

Emory University’s Jessica Sales, an associate research professor, and Gene Brody, a research professor, also will participate on the two-year grant.

“We are researching the benefits of individuals undergoing substance-use treatment on other aspects of their lives, including the prevention of HIV,” Brown said. “It is common for substance use researchers to focus on the benefits of interventions to reduce substance use, whereas HIV researchers place less emphasis on the benefits of their interventions to reduce substance use. Our hope is that this study will lay the groundwork for future researchers to design interventions that can address multiple health problems.”

Brown, the principal investigator on the study, will combine the data from 15 previous NIDA studies (6,896 participants), which would have had to be separately analyzed only a couple of years ago. A clinical health psychologist with an expertise in HIV risk prevention, she will translate how substance-use interventions may have positive effects on other health behaviors, including reduction in HIV risk.

Duncan

Eriksen, a co-investigator on the study, is an economist with statistical expertise in working with large or “big” data, which was only possible given the recent gains in computing power of the last couple of years. Eriksen will conduct the statistical analysis of the study and assist Brown in assessing the cost-effectiveness of substance-use treatments’ previously unrecognized health benefits.

“There have been a number of studies examining the intersection of substance abuse and HIV risk,” he said. “However, this will be the first study using a dataset that combines data from 15 different substance-use treatment trials to examine the interventions simultaneously.  The practice of combining multiple trials was only recently possible given the gains in computing power and memory.”

Brown and Eriksen have collaborated on several previous studies and publications, including a recent study examining how interventions to prevent HIV also affect other aspects of mental health.

Robert V. Duncan, vice president of research at Texas Tech, said he is excited to receive this important award from the NIH.

“I congratulate Professor Brown, Professor Eriksen and this extended research team on their success,” he said. “This builds upon two great strengths at Texas Tech, namely our interdisciplinary research collaborations, and our innovations in Big Data. These are essential aspects of our emergence as a major national-scale research university.”

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