University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Department of Psychiatry

Bio for Sarah H Heil
Sarah H Heil

Sarah H Heil

Research Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry

Contact Information
Office Location:
UVM Department of Psychiatry, Mail Stop 427AR1, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401


1992: B.A.-Psychology, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
1997: Ph.D.-Experimental Physiological Psychology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
1997-1999: Postdoctoral Fellowship-Fetal Alcohol Effects, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
1999-2002: Postdoctoral Fellowship-Behavioral Pharmacology of Drug Abuse, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Academic Interests

Substance Abuse and women, especially pregnant women and their infants; behavioral pharmacology; women's health; use of incentives to promote healthy behavior change (contingency management)

Research Grants

R01DA002491 (Heil, Sarah H., P.I.)    
Agency: NIH/NIDA
Characterizing Nicotine Withdrawal in Pregnant Smokers

The major goal of this proposal is to conduct a population-based study of pregnant cigarette smokers to comprehensively and rigorously characterize nicotine withdrawal, including the incidence, magnitude and time-course of individual nicotine withdrawal symptoms, in this special population.
Role: Principal Investigator
R01DA18410 (Heil, Sarah, H., P.I.)    
Agency:  NIH/NIDA
Maternal Opioid Treatment:  Human Experimental Research

The major goal of this project is to compare the safety and efficacy of buprenorphine and methadone for the treatment of opioid-dependent pregnant women and their babies.  The results of this eight-site, international, double-blind, double-dummy, flexible-dosing, randomized clinical trial will provide data for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of the use of both medications during pregnancy.
Role:  Principal Investigator
R01DA14028 (Higgins, Stephen, T., P.I.)   
Agency:  NIH/NIDA
Voucher-Based Incentives to Treat Pregnant Smokers

The major goal of this project is to examine the efficacy of a voucher-based incentive program for promoting smoking cessation and preventing relapse during pregnancy and postpartum. Postpartum relapse rates are strikingly high in this population even among those abstinent during pregnancy.  Thus, this population offers a potentially enlightening exception to the pattern of initial abstinence begetting later abstinence.
Role:  Co-Investigator
R01DA008076 (Higgins, Stephen, T., P.I.)   
Agency:  NIH/NIDA
Modeling Initial Smoking Abstinence and Relapse Risk

The overarching aim of this project is to conduct a detailed experimental analysis of whether and how varying amounts of initial smoking abstinence decrease relapse risk.  Sustaining abstinence through the initial high-risk period of a cessation effort is associated with a striking and precipitous decline in relapse risk.  A contingency management model permits us to overcome the methodological obstacle of gaining experimental control over the amount of initial abstinence attained, allowing experimental analysis of changes in the relative reinforcing effects of cigarette smoking.
Role:  Co-Investigator
T32DA07242 (Higgins, Stephen, T., P.I.)     
Agency:  NIH/NIDA
Training in Behavioral Pharmacology of Human Drug Dependence

The purpose of this grant is to train behavioral pharmacologists to empirically examine behavioral and pharmacological factors contributing to drug use, the consequences of drug use, and how that basic understanding translates to novel treatments for drug dependence.
Role:  Co-Investigator
R01DA019989 (Sigmon, Stacey C., P.I.)    
Agency: NIH/NIDA
Effective Treatment for Prescription Opioid Abuse

The overarching goal of this proposal is to develop a manualized, efficacious treatment for prescription opioid abuse. Despite the alarming recent increase in prescription opioid abuse, we know of no published studies evaluating treatments for this emerging population. Two experimental studies are proposed to programmatically evaluate a combined behavioral-pharmacological treatment for prescription opioid abuse. The platform behavioral treatment delivered to patients in both studies is the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA), an efficacious therapy for promoting healthy lifestyle changes in licit and illicit drug abusers. The pharmacological treatments will be a buprenorphine detoxification followed by a regimen of naltrexone therapy. Development of efficacious treatments will help to reduce the vast economic and societal costs associated with prescription opioid abuse.
Role: Co-Investigator
R01DA019550 (Sigmon, Stacey C., P.I.)    
Agency: NIH/NIDA
Incentive-based smoking cessation for methadone patients

The aim of this project is to programmatically develop and test the efficacy of a voucher-based smoking cessation intervention in methadone-maintained cigarette smokers.  The intervention will use intensive monitoring via breath carbon monoxide and urinary cotinine, voucher-based contingency management, and bupropion to promote smoking abstinence in this challenging population.  This project will culminate in an effective behavioral intervention for reducing cigarette smoking among methadone-maintained patients, a population in whom prevalence of cigarette smoking is three-fold that of the general population.
Role: Co-Investigator

Academic Appointments

2003-2009: Research Assistant Professor, University of Vermont, Departments of Psychiatry & Psychology
2009-Present: Research Associate Professor, University of Vermont, Departments of Psychiatry & Psychology

Awards and Honors

1991: Wittenberg University Faculty Research Fund Summer Research Grant Recipient
1994, 1995: Sigma Xi Grants-In-Aid of Research Recipient
1994: Sigma Delta Epsilon Fellowship Alternate
1995: Sandra G. Wiener Developmental Psychobiology Student Investigator Award
1997-1999: NIAAA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Fetal Alcohol Effects
1999-2002: NIDA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Behavioral Pharmacology of Drug Abuse
2003: NIDA Women and Gender Junior Investigator Travel Award


To see more of Dr. Heil's publications, please visit PubMed