Substance Abuse and Health Lab

Studying the predictors, and consequences, of substance use for young people

Cutting-edge approaches to understanding youth substance use

ITR’s Substance Abuse and Health Lab looks at the predictors and consequences of drug and alcohol use among young people.

Overseen by ITR core faculty member Dr. Megan Patrick, the lab conducts cutting-edge research to better understand substance-related topics like motivation, decision-making, and the prevention of health risk behaviors.

The lab’s core projects include:

An Adaptive Preventive Intervention for College Student Alcohol Use

R01 AA026574 (PI Megan Patrick), 2018-2021

This research project is designed to promote health among first-year college students by implementing an adaptive sequence of preventive intervention strategies to motivate heavy-drinking college students to access existing resources in order to reduce high-risk alcohol use and negative consequences. If found efficacious, the adaptive preventive intervention (API) has the potential to reduce both the acute negative health consequences (e.g., injury, alcohol poisoning) and long-term health consequences (e.g., alcohol use disorders) of young adult alcohol use, while seeking to leverage technology in order to use campus resources in the most efficient way possible. The specific aims are to use a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) study to examine: (1) the efficacy of an adaptive preventive intervention (API) for college student drinking compared to an assessment-only control, (2) whether the API can be optimized by altering the timing of the universal intervention and/or the personalization of the link to indicated intervention, and (3) moderators of these effects (e.g., high-intensity drinking and simultaneous alcohol and marijuana use) to reduce alcohol use and consequences among college students.

High-Intensity Drinking Occasions

R01 AA023504 (PI Megan Patrick), 2015-2023

This project uses national prospective data from Monitoring the Future to examine the development of high-intensity drinking across young adulthood (ages 18 to 30), and it varies based on college enrollment and attainment, social roles changes, and reasons for drinking. New intensive measurement data collection starting in 2019 will be the first national study of both college attenders and non-attenders to identify predictors (e.g., affect, motives for drinking, drinking contexts, and other substance use that day) and consequences (e.g., blackouts, injury, aggressive behavior, sexual risk, and negative interpersonal consequences) of specific occasions of high-intensity drinking, and will provide critical information for health promotion and intervention efforts targeting high-risk alcohol behaviors among young adults.

Simultaneous Alcohol and Marijuana Use in a Community Sample of Young Adults

R01 AA025037 (MPIs Christine Lee [University of Washington] and Megan Patrick)

Major changes in marijuana legislation are likely to affect not only the use of marijuana, but also the use of other substances, including alcohol. These policy changes have shifted attention to the important individual and public health implications of simultaneous alcohol and marijuana (SAM) use, and potential additive or synergistic negative effects and consequences (e.g., increased risk of driving while intoxicated). To date, very little is known regarding how SAM use differs from use of either substance alone on a given occasion. The proposed study will examine SAM use in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, and findings will add knowledge about the risks of combining alcohol with marijuana and health implications for young adults in the US. This project focuses on simultaneous alcohol and marijuana (SAM) use among young adults. Specific aims of this application are to (1) examine whether SAM use poses additional alcohol-related risks, compared to using alcohol without marijuana, at the daily level, (2) understand the motivations, intentions, and situations that make SAM use more likely and more consequential among young adults, (3) model the longer-term associations between SAM use and substance use and health consequences across 3 years, and (4) examine potential moderators of these relationships.

Monitoring the Future

R01 DA001411 (PI Richard Miech [University of Michigan])

R01 DA016575 (PI John Schulenberg [University of Michigan])

Megan Patrick is a Co-Investigator of the national Monitoring the Future (MTF) study (based in the University of Michigan Youth and Social Issues Program) which has examined attitudes and behavior of youth and adults in the U.S. since 1975. In addition to being a basic research study, MTF has become one of the nation’s most relied upon sources of information on emerging trends in illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among American adolescents, college students, and young and middle-aged adults. Nationally representative samples of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students (about 42,000 students in 415 schools per year) are surveyed annually. Longitudinal follow-up surveys of high school graduates at modal ages 19–30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 are ongoing.

A summary of the 2017 MTF Results is available here:

Contact us

We are always interested in collaborating or sharing knowledge with others. If you are interested in this topic, contact: Dr. Megan Patrick,