Project Alliance 1: Genetics

Development, Ecology, and Prevention of Early Adult Addictive Behavior
Funding period: May 3, 2012–April 30, 2017
Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas J. Dishion
Co-Investigator: Dr. Danielle Dick, Virginia Commonwealth University
Funded by: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health

This program of research is continuing the work of CFC’s Project Alliance 1 by testing genetically informed ecological models of the development of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and dependence, antisocial behavior, and high-risk sexual behavior in adulthood, and to consider the malleability of risk and protective processes as addressed in the intervention protocol of the Family Check-Up (FCU).

Three hypotheses were proposed: (1) early-onset drug use is linked to persistent adult AOD use and dependence by means of disrupted self-regulation and a low-investment pattern of family formation and occupational engagement; (2) family and peer risk processes relevant to AOD use are strongest among the most genetically vulnerable; and (3) family-centered interventions protect genetically susceptible youth from developing AOD use and abuse by way of a specific type of gene–environment interaction that occurs because the environment has been directly modified (i.e., by the intervention) and not because of natural variations across youths’ environmental conditions.

In middle school, the original sample had been randomly assigned to the FCU. Intervention effects were found on drug use from age 11 through 14 years, and long-term intervention effects were observed with respect to AOD use in late adolescence. These effects were found to extend to ages 23–24. DNA from this sample will be collected and analyzed, and the study will test genetically informed ecological models of adaptation and maladaptation from early adolescence to adulthood.

Progress 2011-2012. During a 6-month period of preparation, 93% of the original PAL 1 sample was located, and data collection began in April. The assessment battery was refined, pilot tested for length and clarity, and put into scannable format to facilitate later data processing and management. To prepare for data collection with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), two research team members completed the World Health Organization’s training and certification process and trained research assistants in the CIDI process and in other aspects of the research protocol. To prepare for collection of saliva/DNA samples, saliva test kits have been acquired and an organizational system devised to facilitate shipping and tracking of the saliva samples. Consent forms and various recruitment materials were developed and IRB approval was received for the overall research protocol. Recruitment and assessment of participants was begun and in-person and DNA data collection is slated to be completed by late 2014.