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2024 Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies Development Pilot Grant Funded

Drs. Brianna Altman and Jordan Gette were recently awarded a Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies Development Grant to conduct their work “Ecological Assessment of Momentary Distress Intolerance and Cannabis Use.” This award provides pilot funds for CAS affiliates to conduct novel research on substance use and related outcomes. Drs. Altman and Gette plan to use this award to launch a pilot study to examine key indicators of cannabis use among young adults. Recruitment and data collection are scheduled to begin in the coming weeks and a description of their proposed work is included below. After alcohol, cannabis is the most widely used substance among emerging adults. Consequences associated with its use within this population, including deleterious physical, cognitive, and mental health outcomes, have been widely established. However, despite these adverse consequences, use of cannabis continues. Understanding how use is maintained within persons could serve to elucidate risk patterns and targets for intervention. Many individuals cite cannabis use as a tool for managing negative affective, cognitive, and physical states, which may reinforce continued use despite experiences of negative consequences. Thus, distress intolerance (DI), or an individual’s perceived or actual inability to withstand uncomfortable or distressing states, is a relevant target for clinical interventions focused on reducing substance use. Though most literature on DI has primarily focused on tobacco and alcohol, there is emerging evidence to support that DI is associated with coping-oriented motives for cannabis use and increased cannabis problems. Their proposal seeks to examine the influence of momentary DI on cannabis use among young adults using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). To address this question, Drs. Altman and Gette will use EMA to capture young adults’ DI during occasions in which they use cannabis as compared to non-use occasions. In addition, they will examine contextual factors associated with both distress and cannabis use behavior such as presence of peers and physical location as well as features of the distress itself, including type of distress (e.g. somatic, affective, cannabis-related) and distress intensity.

This proposal extends existing literature in three ways: 1)This is the first EMA study of DI and cannabis use. 2) Prior studies have neglected to examine the distress states that “activate” DI, reflecting issues in the broader DI literature. Understanding distress states that precede DI can inform preventive and intervention efforts. 3) No prior research has considered situational influences on DI and cannabis use. Such data could increase ecological validity in understanding of these associations. Results from the proposed pilot study have significant research, prevention, and intervention implications and will serve as preliminary data for subsequent grant proposals aimed at examining distress intolerance and its relation with substance use etiology, maintenance, and treatment.

Dr. Brianna Altman is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology where she conducts research on co-occurring substance use and internalizing disorders, health behaviors, and related correlates, with a focus on examining underlying transdiagnostic mechanisms, including distress intolerance and emotion dysregulation. Dr. Jordan Gette is a postdoctoral fellow in the Rutgers Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies where she conducts research on risk and maintaining factors of substance use and co-occurring disorders among young adults and clinical populations with a focus on cognitive influences of cannabis use such as motives and risk perceptions. Drs. Altman and Gette will conduct this pilot proposal under the mentorship of Drs. Angelo DiBello and Samantha Farris.