This subproject is one of many research subprojects utilizing the resources provided by a Center grant funded by NIH/NCRR. The subproject and investigator (PI) may have received primary funding from another NIH source, and thus could be represented in other CRISP entries. The institution listed is for the Center, which is not necessarily the institution for the investigator. Drug use among youth, even though it has declined in recent years, is a significant social problem that is costly for individuals, families, and society at large. A significant number of researchers have documented associations of stressful life events and circumstances with drug use. More recently, several researchers have documented specific links between exposure to violence (being a victim of or a witness to violence) and substance use and abuse in youth. Researchers also have established links between physiological responses to stress (using cortisol as a stress response) and later drug use. However, no study to date has tested physiological responses to stress as either a mediator or moderator of links between exposure to community violence and substance use. This NIDA-funded longitudinal study will investigate the relationships between exposure to community violence and associated stressors, physiological (cortisol) responses to stress, and drug use and other adjustment measures in youth living in Richmond. The overarching goal of the study is to better understand why some youth use drugs to cope with the stress of community violence and other youth do not. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is very interested in this question, and has been funding studies that are transdisciplinary - that is, that incorporate ideas and methods from multiple disciplines in their design. It is expected that exposure to community violence, particularly victimization experiences, will be strongly associated with drug use, PTSD, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms, as well as elevated basal cortisol levels. It is also expected that exposure to community violence to be associated with patterns of cortisol reactivity, and that cortisol reactivity will be associated with adjustment. Specifically, it is hypothesized that youth with lower acute stress reactivity and who have sustained patterns of adrenocortical activity in response to the stressor (elevated post task cortisol values) will be most likely to both have had more exposure to violence and show more behavior problems and substance use. However, it is not expected that patterns of physiological reactivity will fully explain (mediate) links between violence exposure and adjustment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
General Clinical Research Centers Program (M01)
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National Center for Research Resources Initial Review Group (RIRG)
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Virginia Commonwealth University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
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United States
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