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Cutting Edge Addiction Research Program Begins at CSU

Chicago State University is proud to announce the launch of the CSU Urban Mindfulness and Addictions Research (CUMAR) program. This five-year, $1.97 million dollar program is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program seeks to extend research on mindfulness and mindfulness meditation to underserved urban populations. CUMAR reaches across disciplines at CSU and promotes participation and cooperation among scholars from Pharmacy, Public Health, Social Work, and Psychology. Further, CUMAR reaches out to students at Chicago State University by offering assistantships and research opportunities.

CUMAR is structured around four studies ranging from the neurochemistry and the neuroscience of mindfulness; meditation as a tool for substance abuse case managers as they approach their work; meditation as a strategy for substance abusers as they seek to remain clean and sober; and adherence to medications for drug users who suffer from co-occurring disorders.

Ehab A. Abourashed, MS, PhD explains the focus of the neuroscience element of the project which he leads with AbirTaha El-Alfy MS, PhD: “The basic pharmaceutical sciences project focuses on natural products drug discovery as a complementary approach to mindfulness treatment of substance abuse. The discovered plant constituents are expected to reduce the anxiety that accompanies drug withdrawal, by affecting the levels of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) present in our brain. We have identified sources for the potential compounds and their effects will be tested in animals during this phase of the project.”

Quintin Williams Ph.D, and Sherri F. Seyfried, PhD, ACSW, will focus on mindfulness meditation as a tool to improve the well-being of case managers. They explain, “A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention will be adapted for Recovery Coaches working with substance involved parents seeking to regain custody of their children. The Recovery Coach Program at Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities requires the coach to engage clients in their home and community settings. It’s a stressful job, and the MBSR curriculum will develop stress reduction techniques designed to enhance empathy, reduce compassion fatigue and burnout among Recovery Coaches, thereby enhancing the working alliance and client outcomes. This study will contribute to the limited research on translating these techniques for human service professionals working in underserved communities, and enhancing interpersonal skills through mindfulness practice.”

The substance abuse program is headed by Thomas Lyons, PhD with the collaboration of Dustin Cantrell, Ph.D., and Maryse Nazon, Psy.D. Dr. Lyons states that the project will “culturally tailor a mindfulness program for inmates in a men’s drug treatment program at the Cook County Jail. We’ll compare meditation and yoga to an existing classroom-style intervention, and we’ll see which strategy best reduces both stress symptoms in jail, and drug relapse after the participants are released from jail. We’re planning to enroll 300 men over three years in this experimental intervention. We’re grateful for the support of the WestCare Foundation and Cook County Sheriff’s office and Dept. of Corrections for this innovative project.”

Finally, Diana Isaacs PharmD, BCPS, and Sneha Srivastava, PharmD, BCACP, head the component of the study which focuses on medication adherence. Dr. Isaacs explains, “The main focus of our study is to establish the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and medication adherence in those with substance use disorders who are taking medications. Our hypothesis is that participants who are more mindful will also be more adherent to their medications—they will be more likely to take their medications on time and not miss doses. If this is true, this could lead to more targeted interventions in the future using mindfulness tools to improve medication adherence.”

The overall aims of CUMAR are to advance the neuroscience of mindfulness; to apply it to reducing drug use and relapse among persons involved in the criminal justice system; to improve delivery of substance abuse treatment and medication management; and to train and inspire a new generation of researchers at Chicago State University.