Approximately 20% of college students are regular marijuana users, and are at risk for cognitive and academic problems, addiction, and risk behaviors such as driving while impaired. Young adult marijuana users are thus a high-risk population and may require an intervention that motivates marijuana reductions by increasing engagement in constructive alternatives to marijuana use. Brief Motivational Interventions (BMIS) have demonstrated efficacy for alcohol use in college students, but lack consistent evidence of efficacy for marijuana use. This research team has developed a supplement to alcohol BMIs, the Substance-Free Activity Session (SFAS), which directly targets the behavioral economic mechanisms of both substance-free reinforcement and delayed reward discounting by encouraging the development of and commitment to academic and career goals, and by highlighting the impact of day-to-day patterns of alcohol use and academic engagement on these goals. A controlled pilot trial found that the SFAS improved BMI outcomes in a sample of heavy drinking college students, and the ongoing parent trial to this revision is replicating and extending those results. The proposed (two-year) Collaborative Research on Addiction Competitive Revision would evaluate the SFAS using a randomized 3-group (BMI + SFAS vs. BMI + Relaxation Attention Control, vs. Assessment Only) pilot trial with 120 undergraduates (50% female, 40% minority) who report using marijuana on >4 days in the past-month. The results would extend the aims of the parent grant by determining whether the SFAS enhances the efficacy of a standard marijuana BMI, and provide effect size estimates that would guide the development of a larger trial. It is hypothesized that at the 1-month and the next-semester follow-ups (follow-ups are wedded to the academic calendar to allow for representative measurement of marijuana use and activity patterns) BMI+SFAS participants will report significantly lower levels of marijuana use and problems, and that these reductions will exceed those of BMI + Relaxation and Assessment-Only participants. Exploratory analyses will test the hypotheses that (a) the BMI + SFAS will be more effective for participants who report higher baseline marijuana reinforcing efficacy and delayed reward discounting;and (b) the advantage of BMI + SFAS on marijuana use will be mediated by increased participation in substance-free activities. Support for our hypotheses would extend behavioral economic theory and would provide initial validation for an approach that could be used to reduce marijuana misuse among the increasing population of college students who misuse marijuana. Furthermore, given the focus of the SFAS is to increase academic/campus engagement, this work has the potential for widespread dissemination.

Public Health Relevance

Brief motivational interventions (BMIs) for substance misuse are among the most cost-effective preventive care measures, and with rates of marijuana use increasing among young adults the development and evaluation of innovative methods for improving marijuana-focused BMIs is a public health priority. The goal of this research is to improve BMIs for marijuana use by adding a behavioral economic session focused on increasing engagement in constructive alternatives to marijuana use.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDA1-SXC-E (16))
Program Officer
Ruffin, Beverly
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Memphis
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Acuff, Samuel F; Luciano, Matthew T; Soltis, Kathryn E et al. (2018) Access to environmental reward mediates the relation between posttraumatic stress symptoms and alcohol problems and craving. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 26:177-185
Acuff, Samuel F; MacKillop, James; Murphy, James G (2018) Applying behavioral economic theory to problematic Internet use: An initial investigation. Psychol Addict Behav 32:846-857
Acuff, Samuel F; Soltis, Kathryn E; Luciano, Matthew T et al. (2018) Depressive symptoms as predictors of alcohol problem domains and reinforcement among heavy drinking college students. Psychol Addict Behav 32:792-799
Lindgren, Kristen P; Hendershot, Christian S; Ramirez, Jason J et al. (2018) A dual process perspective on advances in cognitive science and alcohol use disorder. Clin Psychol Rev :
Colby, Suzanne M; Orchowski, Lindsay; Magill, Molly et al. (2018) Brief Motivational Intervention for Underage Young Adult Drinkers: Results from a Randomized Clinical Trial. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 42:1342-1351
Teeters, Jenni B; Soltis, Kathryn E; Murphy, James G (2018) A Mobile Phone-Based Brief Intervention With Personalized Feedback and Text Messaging Is Associated With Reductions in Driving After Drinking Among College Drinkers. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 79:710-719
Meshesha, Lidia Z; Utzelmann, Bettina; Dennhardt, Ashley A et al. (2018) A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Marijuana and Other Drug Use Among Heavy Drinking Young Adults. Transl Issues Psychol Sci 4:65-75
Voss, Andrew T; Soltis, Kathryn E; Dennhardt, Ashley A et al. (2018) Protective behavioral strategies mediate the relationship between behavioral economic risk factors and alcohol-related problems. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 26:58-64
Acuff, Samuel F; Soltis, Kathryn E; Dennhardt, Ashley A et al. (2018) Evaluating Behavioral Economic Models of Heavy Drinking Among College Students. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 42:1304-1314
Joyner, Keanan J; Acuff, Samuel F; Meshesha, Lidia Z et al. (2018) Alcohol family history moderates the association between evening substance-free reinforcement and alcohol problems. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 26:560-569

Showing the most recent 10 out of 21 publications