Scroll to top

Expanding Recovery Support for Emerging Adults with Alcohol Use Disorder: Training in The Science of Social Network Sites

Funding Source

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), K23AA025707

Project Period

5/1/18 - 4/30/23

Principal Investigator

Brandon Bergman, PhD (Massachusetts General Hospital)

Other Project Staff

John F. Kelly, PhD (Mentor); Robert L. Stout, PhD, Jeffrey J. Arnett, PhD, Saeed Hassanpour, PhD, Lisa A. Marsch, PhD (Co-Mentors)

Project Summary

The overarching goal of this K23 is to support the training of Dr. Brandon G. Bergman, a new clinical investigator and addiction psychologist located at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (MGH/HMS). His goal is to become an expert in scientific methodologies that capitalize on social network site (SNS) platforms to promote, and increase our understanding of, recovery-related behavior change among individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD). As a major first step toward gaining expertise in the science of SNSs, the candidate proposes an original, mentored research study focused on recovery-specific SNSs (recovery SNSs), a novel area of patient-oriented AUD research. Recovery SNSs are similar functionally to conventional SNSs, such as Facebook and Twitter, though they also provide convenient and flexible access to recovery resources in a recovery-supportive online community. The study builds on an extensive literature showing the clinical and public health utilities of in-vivo, recovery-oriented networks, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), by examining the clinical utility of these digital recovery support services as adjuncts to outpatient addiction treatment and continuing care specifically for emerging adults (EAs; 18-29 years old). EAs are targeted because they evidence poorer outcomes relative to older adults, on average, and theory suggests their social immersion in SNSs can be leveraged to enhance positive recovery expectancies, coping skills, self- efficacy, and network support for recovery by exposing them to pro-recovery social norms and engaging them with recovery resources present in recovery SNSs. This mentored study is intended to provide the candidate with intensive, hands-on training, helping him to develop expertise on which he can build an independent patient-oriented addiction research program. Dr. Bergman’s mentorship team will aid his scientific development in the following areas: 1) the conduct of original patient-oriented addiction research among emerging adults with AUD, and mechanisms of recovery-related behavior change (John Kelly; MGH/HMS); 2) the conduct of health behavior research in digital social spaces (Kamal Jethwani; MGH/HMS); 3) the integration of digital recovery management in face-to-face addiction treatment (Lisa Marsch; Dartmouth College); 4) longitudinal, propensity score matching, and mediation approaches to data analysis (Robert Stout, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation); and 5) EA social-developmental processes (Dr. Jeffrey Arnett; Clark University). In addition to training within MGH/HMS centers (e.g., Partners Connected Health), Dr. Bergman’s training plan also includes substantive coursework at the Emerging Media Studies program at Boston University, and quantitative coursework at the Harvard School of Public Health. His career goals are in line with the NIAAA’s emphases on a) the development of innovative behavioral strategies to promote positive drinking behavior change, and b) the study of potentially vital recovery mechanisms (e.g., social network influences) during an at-risk developmental stage (emerging adulthood;

Public Health Relevance

Technology-integrated interventions have been shown to help facilitate health behavior change among individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), a significant contributor to disease and disability in the United States. While social networks may have substantial influence on both AUD onset and remission, little is known about the clinical utility of online, recovery-specific social network sites (SNSs). This patient-oriented research career development award will provide the candidate with mentorship and hands-on training in order to examine a) the utility of recovery-specific social network sites, and b) the interplay between digital (i.e., online; via SNSs) in-vivo (i.e., offline; in-person) social network influences and their effects on clinical outcomes, among emerging adults (18-29 years) with AUD in outpatient addiction treatment.