SIF135 Addictions

Project Manager: Robert Klesges

Aims to reduce dependence on tobacco, alcohol, and opiates through assessments of campus binge drinking, proliferation of e-cig substitutes, and development of innovative technology.

BoV Approved: December 2017

Project Dates: 2/16/2018 – 2/15/2023

Funding Awarded: $3,586,726

Executive Summary

Tobacco, binge and episodic drinking (particularly among young people), and opiate dependence combined is the number one cause of premature mortality and morbidity in the state of Virginia. This SIF award proposes to create the infrastructure, technology, and interventions to ultimately reduce the burden of addiction by creating the infrastructure so the technology and interventions are developed, beta tested, and pilot tested in the areas of (a) binge drinking in UVA students; (b) tobacco harm using e-cigarettes followed by cessation; and (c) opiate abuse prevention in a hospital setting as well as those that are addicted to opiates (with a focus on the western part of Virginia).  Our multidisciplinary team is in the top tier of addiction researchers in the country and the SIF projects not only have the potential to lead to additional NIH, DoD, CDC, and TIC funding, but to establish UVA as a world leader in cutting edge, disseminable interventions for the treatment of addictions.  These studies have the potential for great impact in our local community including UVA students and patients, as well as outreach to other communities throughout the state.  Overall and most importantly, we will have the tools to ultimately reduce mortality and morbidity caused by addictions in the state of Virginia.

Current Status: Active


The Addictions project aims to reduce the dependence on tobacco, alcohol, and opioids in the state of Virginia through assessments of and interventions into the proliferation of cigarette substitutes, binge drinking among college students, and novel ways to address the opioid epidemic. 

In tobacco, we have conducted extensive surveys among current and former smokers to better understand tobacco use patterns and the quitting process. This led to the identification of new avenues of research and intervention targets. The team submitted grants to study new tobacco products, including a smoke-free cigarette substitute (IQOS); assess the impact of the Tobacco 21 law; and intervened specifically in the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (ENDS, aka, e-cigarettes). The team is planning new projects in how to maximize the success of tobacco quit lines, intervene in teen vaping, and assist people who use alcohol and e-cigarettes at the same time reduce their dependence on both.

Our opioid research team established an unprecedented statewide Opioid Help Line to connect healthcare professionals, patients, and their families with resources as well as provide counseling and support. We also adapted a planned study for the Emergency Department to fit with new limitations on research due to the pandemic and began working to improve the outcomes of people brought to the ED for an overdose. 

Our alcohol research team conducted extensive formative work on binge drinking at the University, developed an innovate app to address specific concerns that were identified, and is currently pilot testing the app before launching a full-scale trial. The team has also identified avenues for additional research in fraternities and sororities. We will be also looking at other populations and health concerns that can be served using the technology framework we developed for the app. Other populations targets include students at other universities, young people in military training, and vulnerable populations. Additional health issues include sleep, obesity, and medication adherence.