A Closer Look

Several members of APA's Div. 28 (Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse) have helped initiate a multisite national research project that will give clinicians a real-world look at the effectiveness of such promising substance abuse treatments as motivational interviewing and motivational incentives.

Six Div. 28 researchers are serving as principal investigators on the project, the Clinical Trials Network (CTN)--a group of ongoing clinical research protocols that the National Institute on Drug Abuse established in 1999 to take substance abuse treatment research beyond the walls of the research clinic. Network researchers test behavioral and pharmacological treatment methods in a range of community-based settings with socioeconomically and ethnically diverse populations.

In doing so, they are bridging science and practice in substance abuse treatment, says Div. 28 President James Sorensen, PhD, one of the principal investigators on the project. Traditionally, researchers and practitioners have operated independently and not informed each other's work, says Sorensen. But, he adds, the CTN has provided an important opportunity for substance abuse researchers--who make up most of Div. 28's membership--to ask questions clinicians need answers to.

"I see these cultural differences that have always existed between treatment people and research people being worked out in the Clinical Trials Network," Sorensen says.

What's more, he adds, results from the first round of CTN clinical trials--its "wave one" protocols--are to be unveiled at APA's Annual Convention in Honolulu, July 28-Aug. 1. "The price of these types of large studies is time--they march along," says Sorensen, whose own study is part of wave five proposals and won't be ready for several years. "But the end is in sight."

Practical research

In the meantime, Div. 28 members and CTN principal investigators Kathleen Carroll, PhD, Maxine Stitzer, PhD, and Dennis McCarty, PhD, will present findings from three separate studies at convention.

Carroll, who is the principal investigator for the New England section, or one "node," of the network, will relate the results of her study on the efficacy of motivational interviewing--a treatment method developed by longtime substance abuse researcher William Miller, PhD, also a principal investigator of the network's Southwest node. Carroll and her co-investigators randomized participants at five substance abuse community treatment clinics to either treatment as usual or motivational interviewing to look at whether the technique increases retention in treatment and reduces immediate substance use.

"Not only have we gotten to see a great diversity of substance use problems coming in, we are getting a great look at what treatment as usual really looks like," says Carroll. And because she randomized clinicians to delivering either treatment as usual or motivational interviewing, her findings will also shed light on how well community clinicians can learn and use the technique.

Stitzer, who leads the mid-Atlantic node, will discuss findings from her study on the use of motivational incentives--or prizes in exchange for drug-free urine samples--to improve substance abuse treatment outcomes. McCarty--who leads the Oregon CTN node--will share his results from CTN's baseline study survey, which describes the various types of treatment offered at the more than 118 community treatment programs involved in the CTN. The session will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 29.

More to come

The findings presented at the convention session are just the beginning of CTN results to come over the next several years, adds Sorensen. One such future highlight includes a study by Carroll and Florida node principal investigator Jose Szapocznik, PhD, on how motivational-enhancement therapy works with Spanish-speaking clients, who have been usually absent from studies of substance abuse treatment until now. What's more, Sorensen and other division members are part of a CTN subcommittee looking at how findings can best be disseminated.

"Div. 28 is a science division that is attending to practice issues, and that is a really good thing," says Sorensen. In fact, he encourages every drug abuse researcher--and practitioner--to keep abreast of CTN happenings through membership in the division.

For more information on NIDA's Clinical Trials Network, visit www.nida.nih.gov/CTN/Index.htm.

Div. 28 at a glance

Div. 28 was formed in 1967 to provide a home for psychologists interested in the behavioral effects of psychoactive or central nervous system medicine, drugs and chemicals on individuals in the laboratory and clinic. The division has three subcommittees focused on animal research, neurobehavioral toxicology and training programs in psychopharmacology.

Members receive the quarterly Psychopharmacology Newsletter and can collaborate and network through a division listserv. Div. 28 sponsors the quarterly APA journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology and offers three annual awards presented at APA's Annual Convention.

To join, contact John Roll, PhD.