Spin-Off Projects

The following projects have sought funding to contact previous Spit for Science participants for additional data collection.

The Relationship Between Depressive Mood, Affect and Cigarette Use Among College Students +

Principal Investigator: Cristina Bares, Ph.D., MSW

VCU Department of Social Work

The study will analyze existing Spit for Science data to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and cigarette use. The spin off component will invite a subset of students who smoke to participate in an ecological momentary assessment study. Participants will receive three text messages per day with a link to a brief survey with questions about current mood, smoking intentions, cigarette craving and how many cigarettes they smoked since the prior signal. The requested N is ~100 and the purpose is to access the daily fluctuations in depression and cigarette use.

Coping-Oriented Drinking in Trauma-Exposed Young Adults: A Genetically Informed Investigation +

Principal Investigator: Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D., Kenneth Kendler, M.D. & Erin Berenz, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Psychiatry

The overarching goal of this research project is to examine the role of genetic and phenotypic (e.g., distress tolerance) factors in the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and coping-oriented drinking in a sample of emerging young adults participating in VCU’s Spit for Science study (VCU IRB HM1459). The first aim of the study will involve archival data analysis of de-identified data from Spit for Science. The proposed study also has an aim involving new data collection (aim 2). Specifically, we aim to enroll up to 600 individuals who endorsed trauma exposure and current alcohol use during the Spit for Science data collection to complete an online survey assessing emotional vulnerability factors, trauma and PTSD, and alcohol use patterns.

The proposed study is clinically significant, in that it would increase our understanding of genetic and environmental factors underlying PTSD and problematic alcohol use, ultimately informing the development of targeted prevention and early intervention strategies. It is hypothesized that: (1) we will detect significant relationships between genetic variation and the phenotypes of coping-oriented drinking and probable PTSD history in the full, de-identified Spit for Science sample; (2a) we will replicate a number of these significant genetic factors in relation to the refined phenotypes of PTSD symptom severity and coping-oriented drinking in our new study sample; (2b) lower levels of behaviorally indexed DT will mediate a relationship between PTSD symptom severity and greater coping-oriented drinking; and (2c) lower levels of behaviorally indexed DT will mediate a relationship between PTSD symptom severity and greater coping-oriented drinking, above and beyond genetic factors.

Improving Alcohol Education at VCU +

Principal Investigator: Danielle Dick, Ph.D., Kristen Donovan, MPH & Linda Hancock, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Psychiatry and Student Health

This study will use data from the Spit for Science baseline fall freshman questionnaire to assign participants to different alcohol prevention programming based on their level of response to alcohol. We will then follow their drinking patterns across time to test whether tailored prevention programming (programming that incorporates a model of risk surrounding level of response to alcohol) is more effective at reducing risky college drinking. Our hypothesis is that individuals who are assigned to a matched prevention program will show lower levels of alcohol consumption than individuals assigned to prevention as usual, and that individuals who are assigned to a mismatched condition will do worse than individuals assigned to prevention as usual. This project aims to replicate the study of Schuckit et al., 2013.

Evaluating Online Alcohol Education at VCU +

Principal Investigator: Danielle Dick, Ph.D., Kristen Donovan, MPH & Linda Hancock, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Psychiatry and Student Health

This study aims to enroll participants from Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey, The project will test whether completing an online alcohol education module (BASICS Feedback), which is currently available through the VCU Wellness Resource Center, is associated with reduced alcohol consumption among college freshman. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention in reducing the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, other drug consumption, and the harms related to use. Investigators will test this by inviting a random subset of Spit for Science participants to complete the online module and then comparing their alcohol use data collected as part of the Spit for Science project.

Data Collaborators

The following projects have been granted access to the Spit for Science data for the purpose of secondary data analyses.

Identifying Genetic and Peer Effect Interactions in Smoking and Substance Use: Evidence from Random Housing Assignment in College Freshmen +

Principal Investigators: Andrew Barnes, Ph.D. & Lindsay Sabik, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Healthcare Policy and Research

The study will use existing coded Spit for Science survey data on housing assignments and smoking, alcohol use, and substance use, as well as genotypic data on known predictors of these behaviors. Control variables from Spit for Science will include age, sex, race/ethnicity, religion, parental education and employment status. By merging freshman-housing data with data on smoking, alcohol and substance use, they hope to identify the interaction between peer effects, gene-peer (roommate) interactions and substance use.

Relationship Between Childhood Pet Ownership and Attachment on Mental Health Outcomes in College Students +

Principal Investigator: Sandra Barker, Ph.D., NCC, LPC

VCU Department of Psychiatry

This project seeks to advance existing knowledge on the mental health benefits of pet ownership and the potential moderating role of pet attachment. The primary research aim is to explore the relationships between growing up with a pet, pet attachment, and psychiatric and substance abuse outcomes. A secondary aim is to examine gender and cultural differences in pet ownership and pet attachment.

Calibrating Trajectories to Nicotine Dependence for Alternative Tobacco Products +

Principal Investigators: Aashir Nasim, Ph.D. & Hermine Maes, Ph.D.

VCU Departments of African American Studies & Human and Molecular Genetics

This project aims to increase our understanding of the trajectories to nicotine dependence for alternative tobacco products. The specific aims of the project are to: (1) test whether currently available measures for nicotine dependence measure the same construct at different ages (adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood) and by gender; (2) characterize patterns of nicotine use (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, hookahs, dissolvables) in young adults (college students), with a special focus on multi-tobacco use by age, gender and race, in relation to their perceived risk, availability, and initial response to experimentation; (3) develop measures for nicotine dependence (ND) for non-cigarette forms of tobacco administration and assess/compare the trajectories from initial use to dependence for different tobacco products; and (4) test whether genes implicated in cigarette smoking with a high degree of confidence predispose specific groups to significantly increased risk for addiction and associated health problems.

Understanding Associations Between Caffeine Use and Substance Use Outcomes +

Principal Investigators: Dace Svikis, Ph.D. & Pamela Dillon, Pharm. D.

VCU Departments of Psychology & Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Determine the prevalence of CYP1A2*1F and CYP1A2*1A alleles associated with acute caffeine metabolism rates in a sample of college students. Compare demographic variables (gender, race) as well as measures of caffeine and other substances (tobacco, alcohol, other drugs) use, and psychosocial risk factors in “rapid” and “slow” caffeine metabolizers.

Shared Genetic Liability Between Nicotine and Alcohol Dependence +

Principal Investigator: Xiangning (Sam) Chen, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Psychiatry

Smoking and alcohol abuse are highly comorbid, however, the mechanism underlying this comorbidity is not clear. We intend to use multiple resources, including this S4S dataset, to investigate to what extent the shared genetic liability accounts for this comorbid condition. We propose to develop new definitions for nicotine and alcohol co-dependence using smoking and alcohol ascertainments and conduct genetic analyses to discover genes associated with both smoking and alcohol dependence.

The Associations Between Participation in Social Activities and Alcohol Outcomes +

Principal Investigator: Karen Chartier, Ph.D, MSW.

VCU Department of Social Work

It is hypothesized that the relationship between participation in social activities and alcohol outcomes will vary depending on the activity type (e.g., sports, fraternity/sorority, university activities, community activities, and church-related activities). Accessibility to alcohol (e.g., how easy is it to obtain alcohol currently?) mediates this relationship. This analysis will examine these relationships by gender and ethnic subgroups (when possible based on sample size). An extension of this analysis will test the modifying or additive effects of participation in social activities on associations between genetic factors (e.g., ADH gene variants) and alcohol outcomes.

Examining Ethnic Group Differences in Level of Response to Alcohol and Alcohol Expectancies +

Principal Investigator: Karen Chartier, Ph.D., MSW

VCU Department of Social Work

It is hypothesized for this study that African Americans and Europeans Americans will differ on measures of self­reported alcohol expectancies and response to alcohol, and that these measures may influence drinking behaviors differently in each ethnic group (e.g., higher positive alcohol expectancies associated with increased drinking for European Americans but not African Americans). It is also expected that ethnic differences in reports of alcohol expectancies and response to alcohol will be associated with ADH gene variants, e.g., ADHIB*3.

Examining the Relationship Between Trauma Exposure and Psychiatric and Substance use Phenotypes +

Principal Investigator: Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D.

VCU Department of Psychiatry

This project is being conducted in collaboration with Danielle Dick. We aim to: 1) determine the prevalence of potentially traumatic events; 2) examine the correlates of trauma exposure; 3) examine the relationship between trauma/stressor exposure and psychiatric and substance use phenotypes; 4) examine the role of NMPUD and trauma analyses; and 4) examine potential risk and protective factors for these associations.

The Relationship Between Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) and Internalizing Disorders (ID) +

Principal Investigators: Alexis Edwards, Ph.D. & Lina Homman, M. Sc.

VCU Department of Psychiatry & Queens University Belfast

The present study aims to examine the relationship between AUD and ID by investigating whether the development of the two disorders are associated, and if so, whether the development of one disorder predicts the development of the other. It is important to establish the relationship between the two disorders as they commonly co-occur and result in increased negative consequences. It is important to do this in a young population as it is in adolescence and early adulthood that disorders tend to first appear. It is also important to use longitudinal data as development is in focus. The present study adds to the knowledge of comorbidity of the two disorders by examining longitudinal development in a college population.

Examining the Influence of Race (Ethnicity) and Gender on Drinking and Substance Use in College Students Longitudinally +

Principal Investigators: Paul Perrin, Ph.D. & Michael Trujillo

VCU Department of Psychology

Our aim for this secondary data analysis project is to examine the influence of race/ethnicity and gender on drinking and substance use in college students at three different time points: (1) freshman introduction, Spring freshman new survey; (2) freshman follow­ up; and (3) sophomore follow-up. We plan to examine how these relationships and the ability to predict alcohol and substance use are moderated by various social components (family relations, participation in social situations, social support), religiosity, and stressful events. We plan to run hierarchal linear modeling analyses to examine the trajectories of these drinking and substance abuse dependent variables with time as the nested factor, race/ethnicity and gender as the independent variables, the interaction terms of race/ethnicity or gender and these social component variables (i.e. moderators) as additional independent variables.