University of Vermont

College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

The Human Behavioral Pharmacology Subprogram

Distinguishing Features

Major Areas of Clinical Research

  • Treatment of Cocaine Abuse (Higgins): We are currently involved in a 15-year outpatient project assessing the efficacy of behavioral interventions for treating cocaine dependence. We have combined behavioral interventions involving the community reinforcement approach and contingency-management utilizing positive reinforcement for abstinence. The basic premise of the intervention package is to create an environment that can compete with the reinforcing effects derived from cocaine.
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy (Higgins): Cigarette smoking during pregnancy is a major cause of preventable infant morbidity and mortality in the U.S. This project examines the therapy, originally developed by us for treatment of cocaine dependence, for promoting smoking cessation and preventing relapse among pregnant smokers.
  • Treatment of Nicotine Dependence (Hughes): We are a) comparing gradual vs abrupt cessation treatments, b) testing new medications for smoking cessation, c) testing whether medication can help motivate smokers to try to quit.
  • Treatment of Opioid-Dependent Pregnant Women (Heil): We are currently participating in a 5-year study that will be the first multi-site trial to assess the efficacy of buprenorphine for reducing neonatal abstinence relative to methadone in the offspring of opioid-dependent pregnant women.
  • Treatment of Prescription Opioid Abuse (Sigmon): There has been an alarming increase in abuse of prescription opioids (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone) in recent years. We have a NIDA-funded grant to develop and evaluate a combined behavioral-pharmacological treatment for prescription opioid dependence, which includes buprenorphine stabilization and detoxication followed by naltrexone therapy and intensive behavioral therapy.
  • Smoking Cessation among Opioid-Dependent Patients (Sigmon): While the prevalence of smoking in the U.S. adult population is about 25%, prevalence of smoking among opioid-maintained patients exceeds 90%. In this 5-year NIDA grant, we aim to programmatically develop a voucher-based smoking cessation intervention in methadone- and buprenorphine-maintained smokers. Development of an effective smoking-cessation intervention among MM patients may hold substantial potential for dissemination to opioid treatment clinics throughout the country.

Major Areas of Basic Laboratory Research

  • Reinforcing Effects of Drugs (Higgins and Heil): This project experimentally analyzes the effects of initial abstinence from drug use on the relative reinforcing effects of drugs, decision making and the behavioral and neurobiological and response to drug-related stimuli. We are also investigating how socioeconomic status influences vulnerability to substance use disorders.
  • Tobacco Cessation (Hughes): We are a) describing in detail how smokers try to quit on their own, b) determining why smokers do not use treatment.
  • Marijuana Cessation (Hughes): We are a) describing in detail how daily marijuana users try to stop or reduce and, b) testing whether stopping marijuana increases other drug use.

Last modified February 22 2011 12:49 PM

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