Center for Addiction Medicine

Active Studies

MGH Ceneter for Addiction Medicine researchersThe work of the Center is carried out through clinical trials that investigate causes of substance use disorders and novel treatments. The findings in these studies often affect the way treatment is delivered in actual healthcare environments. Information about the studies currently being conducted may be accessed through the list below.

Cannabis Studies

Effect of Medical Marijuana on Neurocognition and Escalation of Use

Principal Investigator: Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., 2016—2020

Study Reference: 5R01DA042043-05

This study used a randomized controlled trial design to test whether medical marijuana patients experience unintended negative consequences from medical marijuana use such as progression to addiction, neurocognitive impairments, and brain-based changes. The resulting data will inform clinicians, scientists, and policymakers about unforeseen effects and potential outcomes of medical marijuana policies.

Cognition and Adolescent Health

Principal Investigator: Randi Schuster, Ph.D., 2015—2022

Study Reference: NIH/NIDA 1K23DA042946-02

The purpose of this study is to determine whether there is cognitive dysfunction in adolescent cannabis use that persists in the short term (four days) after use but resolves with extended abstinence (30 days) compared to cannabis users who do not quit and non-using controls, as well as estimate the rate of cognitive improvement with cannabis abstinence as a function of time since last use and concentration of detectable cannabis metabolites in urine. This study will also examine whether genetic risk for ADHD and other psychiatric co-morbidities alters the rate of cognitive recovery with cannabis abstinence.

This study is currently recruiting participants. Visit or call (617) 643-3575 to see if you are eligible.

Evaluation of Cannabidiol for Reduction of Brain Neuroinflammation

Principal Investigator(s): Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., Marco Loggia, Ph.D., 2021—2026

Study Reference: NIH R01DA053316

Treatment for chronic pain is largely ineffective, likely due to a lack of viable targets. Cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), are among the therapeutics attracting attention for their potential pain applications. In this project, we will use PET/MR imaging to image glial activation in patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP), and investigate whether CBD, compared to placebo, reduces pain- and depression-related neuroinflammation in cLBP. This will be the first study to test potential effects of CBD on neuroinflammation and striatal physiology in pain patients, and could help reconcile the conflicting findings regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in pain conditions.

Contingency Management for Six Months of Cannabis Abstinence among Adolescents

Principal Investigator(s): Randi Schuster, Ph.D., 2019—2022

Study Reference: ECOR

This pilot study will examine whether cognitive change over six months of cannabis abstinence is associated with improved real-world academic performance and brain functioning in adolescents.

This study is currently recruiting participants. Visit or call (617) 643-3575 to see if you are eligible.

Interrupting Developmental Pathways to Schizophrenia: Protecting Youth at Risk for Cannabis Use and Psychosis

Principal InvestigatorRandi Schuster, Ph.D., 2019—2022

Study Reference: Neuroscience and MGH Research Institute Scientific Projects to Accelerate Research and Collaboration (SPARC) Award

The overall purpose of this program is to identify adolescents who are at risk for cannabis-induced psychosis, as evidenced by endorsement of mild-to-moderate, sub-syndromal symptoms, and provide them with a potentially preventive intervention aimed at enhancing resilience.

Characterizing Proximal Risk for Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation with Acute Cannabis Use and Withdrawal Among Adolescents Using Ecological Momentary Assessment

Principal InvestigatorRandi Schuster, Ph.D., 2021—2022

Study Reference: ECOR

The goal of this project is to collect critical pilot data on proximal relationships between acute cannabis use and withdrawal on depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation using ecological momentary assessment among depressed adolescents.

Tobacco Studies

Integrated Smoking Cessation Treatment for Smokers with Serious Mental Illnesses

Principal Investigator: A. Eden Evins, M.D., MPH, 2016—2021

Study Reference: PCORI 1504-30472

The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of two practical approaches to improving the health of people with mental illness in the community. The project will test whether tailored education to primary care doctors alone or combined with community health workers will help those with mental illness quit smoking. More than 1,100 patients in 50 Boston area community health clinics will be involved. Bay Cove Human Services and Vinfen, two of the largest mental health service providers in the Commonwealth, will lead the clinical component of this study.

Varenicline For Vaping Cessation in Non-Smoker Vaper Adolescents

Principal Investigator: A. Eden Evins, M.D., MPH, Randi Schuster, Ph.D., 2021—2024

Study Reference: NIDA; 1R01DA052583-01A1

Electronic cigarettes, initially marketed as a harm reduction product for tobacco smokers, have exploded in popularity amongst adolescents, renormalizing tobacco use in youth, causing nicotine dependence in nonsmoking adolescents, and increasing risk for tobacco smoking, other drug use, and direct negative health effects of vapor exposure. Amidst growing demand for adolescent vaping cessation interventions where no proven treatment exists, varenicline has shown promise for adolescent smoking cessation in randomized controlled trials and for vaping cessation in clinical care. This project will determine whether varenicline, the most effective treatment for addiction to smoked tobacco, is effective for vaping cessation in adolescents.

Positive Psychology Smoking Cessation Smartphone App for Nondaily Smokers

Principal Investigator(s): Bettina Hoeppner, Ph.D., Susanne Hoeppner, Ph.D., Lourah Kelly, Ph.D., John F. Kelly, Ph.D. 2016—2021

Study Reference:  130323-RSG-17-021-01-CPPB

The goal of this project is to develop a smartphone app to support smoking cessation in nondaily smokers using a positive psychology approach.  A three-phase development process is proposed, using (1) in-depth feedback from n = 30 on our already developed Version 1.0, (2) a nation-wide pilot test of Version 2.0 (n = 90), and (3) a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial (= 226).

Alcohol and Mixed Drug Use Studies

Evaluation of Medical Cannabis and Prescription Opioid Taper Support for Reduction of Pain and Opioid Dose in Patients with Chronic Non-Cancer Pain

Principal Investigator: Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., 2021—2025

Study Reference: ECOR

Controversy exists over the risk to benefit ratio of medical marijuana for adults with chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) on chronic opioid therapy (COT). The primary goal of this proposal is to assess whether medical marijuana, when added to a behavioral prescription opioid taper support program, improves pain and reduces opioid dose in adults on COT for CNCP more so than the behavioral intervention alone. This information is critical to better inform patients and clinicians about the extent to which medical marijuana use may be beneficial or harmful to this patient population.

This study is currently recruiting participants. Visit or call (617) 643-1984 to see if you are eligible.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Drug Education and Diversion Program for Middle and High School Students

Principal Investigator(s)Randi Schuster, Ph.D., 2020—2024

Study Reference: INTF2400H78500224455 / 2300H78500224179

This is a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug education and diversion program (iDECIDE) that will be implemented in 80+ middle and high schools across Massachusetts. iDECIDE, designed in collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Institute for Health and Recovery, aims to provide schools with a scalable, effective, and youth-centered tier two intervention that can be used as an alternative to punishment for school-based substance use infractions. Providing youth with science-based knowledge and skills, iDECIDE empowers young people to make decisions that align with their core values and future goals to support their own personal well-being.

Visit the iDECIDE website to learn more, or check out the iDECIDE Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram.

Pilot Study of a Transdiagnostic, Emotion-focused Group Intervention for Young Adults with Substance Use Disorder

Study Principal Investigator(s): Kate Bentley, Ph.D. 2018—2020

Training Grant Principal Investigator(s): A. Eden Evins, M.D., MPH & Nancy Rigotti, M.D.

Study Reference: NIH/NIDA 5K12DA043490 (Career Development Program)

The purpose of this pilot study is to examine the acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of adding a transdiagnostic, emotion-focused, cognitive-behavioral group intervention to treatment as usual within a comprehensive outpatient addiction program for young adults (ages 18 to 26) with substance use disorder and co-occurring anxiety or depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, or nonsuicidal self-injury. Participants (n = 50) are randomly assigned to receive the experimental group intervention plus treatment as usual or treatment as usual alone, and substance use (via timeline followback), anxiety and depressive symptoms, and emotion regulation indices are assessed at baseline and four and eight weeks after randomization.

The Impact of Medicaid Plans on Access to and Quality of SUD Treatment

Principal Investigator: Margarita Alegria, Ph.D. 2018—2021

Study Reference: NIH/NIDA 1R01DA044526-01A1

This project makes use of random assignment methods to study the effects of the structure of state Medicaid programs on access, patterns of care and outcomes of substance use disorder (SUD) care. It conducts stratified analysis by race/ethnicity, gender, and rurality to identify which programs and plans have better outcomes and if there are service disparities. It uses qualitative methods to help interpret results and suggest changes to policy and practice.

Expanding the Science on Recovery Mutual Aid for Alcohol Use Disorder: An Investigation of SMART Recovery

Principal Investigator: John F. Kelly, Ph.D. 2018—2023

Study Reference: NIH/NIDA 1R01AA026288-01

This five-year quasi-experimental prospective study is the first to investigate the clinical and public health utility of SMART Recovery by examining its effectiveness 1) as a recovery pathway and 2) in comparison to other mutual help organization participation.

Investigating Impulsivity and Social Network Changes as Novel Mechanisms of Behavior Change for Alcoholics Anonymous' (AA) Positive Effects

Principal Investigator: John F. Kelly, Ph.D. 2018-2023

Study Reference: 1R01AA025849-01A1

This five-year prospective quasi-experimental study systematically examines three facets of impulsivity and conducts egocentric social network analyses to test the mechanisms of behavioral change through which the mutual-help organization, Alcoholics Anonymous, confers benefits.

Vignette Study

Principal Investigator: John F. Kelly, Ph.D.

Privately Funded

This privately funded study looks at terminology and stigma, and how word choice may affect attitudes and perceptions.

Recovery Online

Principal Investigator: Brandon Bergman, Ph.D. 2018-2023

Study Reference: 1K23AA025707-01A1

Through a five-year research career development award, Dr. Bergman is examining the effects of a) participation in recovery-specific social network sites, and b) online and face-to-face peer interactions, on addiction treatment outcomes among emerging adults (18-29 years) with alcohol use disorder.

Other Studies

A Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of VQW-765 in Patients with Performance Anxiety

Principal Investigator(s): A. Eden Evins, M.D., MPH, 2021

Study Reference: Vanda Pharmaceutical

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the effect of an investigational drug called VQW-765 on symptoms associated with performance anxiety and to assess the safety of VQW-765. Performance anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by excessive fear, discomfort, and self-consciousness in a variety of social situations related to performing in front of others such as public speaking. This intense and persistent fear in performance situations can result in significant impairment in almost all facets of daily life, including social activities, relationships, work, and studies.

VQW-765 is an investigational drug. It is still being tested in research studies and is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In order to evaluate the effects of VQW-765 on social anxiety disorder symptoms and the safety of VQW-765, approximately 220 subjects will be enrolled nationwide and randomly assigned to one of two study drug groups: one group will receive VQW-765, and the other group will receive placebo.