UCSF Psychiatry Department receives grant to study innovative drug and substance abuse treatments

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry will use a $7.9 million grant to study creative ways to treat complex, substance abusing patients in community settings, such as hospital emergency rooms and mental health programs.

The grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health, spans over five years and will focus on four areas. The study is unique in that it deals with patients who are doubly diagnosed, such as someone who is mentally ill and also smokes or a person who is HIV positive and addicted to heroin, said principal investigator Sharon Hall, PhD, professor of psychiatry and vice-chair of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry.

"Not a lot of research is done with this complicated population, " she said. "And when it is done, it's not in community settings."

Hall's research involves working on a computer-based intervention program for smokers who are also depressed and seeking treatment for that disorder. The computer program is built around the "stages of change" theory: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. The program is designed to encourage people to think about what stage they're in and gives them indications of what things to think about in order to move onto the next stage until they reach the action stage, when they do something concrete to quit smoking such as buy a nicotine patch.

Hall is recruiting 400 people who come to UCSF's Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute for treatment of depression. They will be tracked for 18 months. Many people who are at risk for depression are also nicotine addicted, she said, and people who have come in for counseling might be an ideal population to work with to quit smoking.

"These are people who have started to make a major change in their life, so perhaps this is a good time to help change their behaviors," she said. "What we want to see is a decrease in smoking rates."

Another area of study will look at the effectiveness of linking heroin addicts who com

Contact: Leslie Harris
University of California - San Francisco

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