Research

Projects

Public health substance use intervention

In collaboration with the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM), we are developing a comprehensive evidence-based online platform for screening, self-management, and referral to treatment for individuals curious about their substance use habits. The website is designed for youth and young adults who are not necessarily in specialized treatment, but want some help with managing their habits. It is currently being pilot-tested for cannabis use only, with plans to extend this platform to include other substances and behavioral addictions.


Transdiagnostic addiction and co-morbidity

Our research on co-morbidity in disordered gambling indicates that individuals with schizophrenia often have high rates of disordered gambling, which goes untreated and not assessed due to diagnostic overshadowing. The mechanisms that drive the interaction between the two disorders also appear to be unique and not present in disordered gamblers without schizophrenia. This work was extended to examine chasing one’s gambling losses as a one-item effective screener for gambling problems. In collaboration with researchers at Yale University, the results are being used to develop more effective disordered gambling screening guidelines for patients with psychotic spectrum disorders.

Funded by Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, we have conducted the largest to date scoping review of all work on co-morbidity in disordered gambling, identifying key areas of weakness in the literature, which mostly focuses on reporting prevalence rates.

Change determinants across addictive behaviours

A number of our projects have attempted to examine how addictive behaviours change, with an emphasis on mechanisms of action. With regard to disordered gambling, a major portion of our research has been dedicated to uncovering key determinants of continuing to gamble in the face of repeated losses (i.e., chasing losses). We have established a number of key factors that contribute to increased chasing, providing a basis for improving clinical guidelines for gambling screening and intervention. We have also explored the role of cognitive distortions in maintaining gambling problems over time. In addition, we are currently focusing on social contributors to change in addictive behaviours by examining the use of social control in youth that is, interpersonal tactics used to incite addiction-related change in others.

Collaborators

Dr. Cam Wild

Dr. Wild is a Professor at the University of Alberta and the Nominated Principal Investigator of the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) Prairie Node. His research program includes (1) community-based epidemiologic and qualitative studies of addictive behaviours (injection drug use, use and misuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit and prescription drugs) and comorbid mental disorders, (2) research on community-based screening and brief interventions as first-line services for the general public, (3) health services research on motivational factors influencing client retention in addiction treatment and the impact of compulsory treatment policies, and (4) system-level work designed to inform the organization of prevention and treatment services in relation to problem severity and population needs for care.

Dr. Phil Tibbo

Dr. Tibbo investigates psychosis/schizophrenia in the areas of neuroimaging (MRS, DTI), genetics, and non-pharmacological treatment options for schizophrenia. Other projects include the development of a relapse prediction tool for use by clinicians and family members; a tool for monitoring medication side effects; and service delivery/national guidelines for early phase psychosis.

Dr. Sandra Meier

Dr. Meier’s research focuses on leveraging modern technology to improve mental health care in youth. With her team she has developed an app that passively gathers information on patients’ behaviours using their smartphones. Thereby she aims to identify youth at risk early on and provide them with the help they needed. She is also interested in risk factors(genetics) and long-term outcomes of anxiety disorders.

Dr. Sherry Stewart

Dr. Stewart studies the role of psychological factors (e.g., personality, motives) in contributing to addictive behaviors including alcohol use, prescription drug misuse, and excessive gambling. She also investigates mechanisms underlying comorbid mental health and addictive disorders. She has conducted several trials of novel approaches for treating and preventing co-occurring mental illness and addictions.

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