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Assessment and Engagement of At-Risk Adolescents via Social Media to inform Development of a Technology-Delivered Intervention

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse — Center for Technology and Behavioral Health Pilot Core

Project Period

March 2017 - March 2018

Principal Investigator

Ashley Knapp, PhD

Other Project Staff

Alan Budney, PhD (Mentor); Sarah Lord, PhD (Co-Mentor); Catherine Stanger, PhD (Co-Mentor); Norman B. Schmidt, PhD; Sunny Jung Kim, PhD; Emily Scherer, PhD; Craig Ganoe, MS

Project Summary

Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is a malleable cognitive vulnerability factor concerning the fear of the negative consequences of anxiety that has been linked to negative health behaviors broadly (e.g., sleep dysfunction, eating behaviors/obesity, anxiety psychopathology) and substance use specifically. Elevated levels of AS are associated with risk of cannabis and alcohol use disorders and smoking lapse and relapse. As such, AS has been conceptualized as a promising mechanistic variable and potential intervention target for prevention or treatment.

Technology-based methods for the study of mechanistic variables such as AS provide an innovative and expeditious approach for obtaining data from youth to inform a heuristic conceptualization of AS as a risk factor and intervention target. Technology-delivered interventions (TDIs) for substance use and other mental health disorders have shown great potential to extend reach, increase access, decrease costs, and improve outcomes.

This pilot application proposes to leverage technology-based tools to initiate a program of research on adolescent AS and substance use with the long-term goal of developing a cost-effective TDI for vulnerable youth. The first step will advance what is known about the interaction between AS and substance use by using social media to survey and characterize this sub-population. Second, we will collaborate with the ic3d technology development team at Dartmouth and Dr. Brad Schmidt, a leading AS expert from Florida State University, to initiate development of a prototype for a tailored TDI using a subsample of youth recruited via social media to inform and refine its development. Accomplishment of these aims will provide the data and tools necessary for development of an extramural grant application to conduct an initial test of this innovative TDI.