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$3.2 million NIH grant to help women with alcoholic partners

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Wed, Sep 28th 2016 12:40 pm

Nearly one in 20 adult women in the U.S. are married to or living with a partner with an alcohol use disorder. A $3.2 million grant to the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions will develop and evaluate an online program specifically designed to help them.

The five-year study, funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the National Institutes of Health, will be conducted by Robert G. Rychtarik, Ph.D., RIA senior research scientist.

"Women with alcoholic partners can experience significant psychological and physical distress as a result of their partner's drinking problem, but often face institutional, psychological and socioeconomic barriers to getting help for themselves," Rychtarik said. "In response to this problem, we developed a self-paced, web-based coping skills training program for these individuals, called 'StopSpinningMyWheels' (SSMW)."

An initial pilot study of the program showed positive results. The new grant will allow researchers to update and improve SSMW in several ways, including 1) adding responsive web design, greater content personalization and increased transportability; 2) adding a complementary mHealth app for smartphones; 3) developing a SSMW web portal to facilitate live coach telephone support; and 4) developing a web hosting site for users to access more information.

Brian G. Danaher, Ph.D., senior research scientist at Oregon Research Institute, and research professor at the University of Oregon, will co-direct the project, with a focus on the technology aspects. RIA senior research scientists Christopher Barrick, Ph.D., and Neil McGillicuddy, Ph.D., and Oregon professor John Seeley, Ph.D., also are co-investigators.

Once the program is updated, the research team will conduct a larger randomized clinical trial, where women can use the updated program to learn essential coping skills for living with a partner with an alcohol abuse disorder.

Rychtarik said the benefits of SSMW may go beyond helping the women themselves. 

"Improving the women's physical and psychological health is important in its own right, but SSMW also may help facilitate a reduction in drinking by their partners, and buffer the negative effects of a partner's drinking on their children," he said.

"In addition, because of its online nature and updated portability, this intervention has the potential for eventually reaching large numbers of women who otherwise would not receive help," Rychtarik added. "In so doing, it could have a much larger public health impact than conventional one-on-one or group counseling, alone."

RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues. RIA's research programs, most of which have multiple-year funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation grants. Located on UB's downtown campus, RIA is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to UB's reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit buffalo.edu/ria.

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