Current Studies

Title: High-Intensity Drinking and Alcohol-Induced Blackouts among Young Adult Drinkers: An Event-level Analysis (Project ARC

Investigator: Jennifer Merrill

Project Duration: 06/2019 – 05/2024

Project Summary: We are interested in understanding substance use behavior alcohol and cannabis use behavior) in daily life among young adults, with a focus on predictors and outcomes of both high intensity drinking (i.e., consumption of 8 or more drinks for women/10 or more for men, in a single sitting) and alcohol-induced memory loss (i.e., blackouts). This study uses ecological momentary assessment to measure what is happening around people when they engage in certain behaviors (i.e., heavier drinking, mixing alcohol and cannabis), and what happens to people after they engage in these behaviors. We are also interested in objectively measuring alcohol use using a wrist-worn sensor, the BACtrack Skyn. This study began with individual interviews to better understand the contextual predictors of high intensity drinking (see publications below). 

Linked publications

Title: A Novel Social Media approach to #Identification and #Screening for Hazardous Drinking among Diverse Non-College Young Adults (Project POST)

Investigator: Jennifer Merrill/Rose Marie Ward

Project Duration: 08/2022 – 07/2024

Project Summary: This proposal involves using public social media posts and self-report to identify post “keywords” that can most sensitively and specifically indicate problematic drinking, particularly among young adults who do not currently attend (and have not graduated from) a 4-year college. We will examine how these social media post keywords as risk indicators may differ between White, Black, and Hispanic young adults. The project will involve both individual interviews with the target population, and a large survey paired with examination of past 30-day social media post content. 

Title: Daily personalized drinking feedback delivered via mobile phone (A-FRAME)

Investigator: Jennifer Merrill

Project Duration: 08/2022 – 07/2025

Project Summary: This project involves developing a mobile-delivered intervention for young adult drinkers (including those not in college). The intervention relies on daily self-reports to inform personalized feedback about normative comparisons, consequences, high-risk behaviors, and practical costs of drinking (e.g., spending and caloric intake). Qualitative formative work is followed by a small randomized controlled pilot to examine feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy. We will also examine the impact of monetary incentives (vs no incentives) on completion of daily self-reports, and consider other ways to engage participants in use of the platform. 

Completed Studies

Title: Real-time evaluations of alcohol consequences and subsequent drinking

Investigator: Jennifer Merrill

Mentors: Kate Carey, Robert Miranda, Kristina Jackson, Rochelle Rosen

Project Duration: 9/15/14 – 8/31/19

Funding source: K01AA022938

Project Summary: This K01 research and training award supported Dr. Merrill as she developed skills as an independent researcher who studies etiological factors of alcohol misuse among young adults and uses that knowledge to refine brief interventions for young adult drinkers. Specifically, her research aimed to identify the impact that event-level alcohol-related consequences have on subsequent drinking decisions among heavy drinking college students. Toward this end she worked with a mentorship team (Drs. Carey, Rosen, Miranda, Jackson, and Piasecki) to build four areas of expertise relevant to this research agenda: (1) qualitative research methods to inform measures and methods development; (2) ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methods; (3) analysis of EMA data; and (4) intervention development.  

Qualitative methods (focus groups with heavy drinking college students; individual interviews with pilot participants) were used (a) to better understand how students personally evaluate the consequences of their drinking and (b) to modify measures for and learn how to maximize compliance with an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) protocol during discrete drinking events. Subsequently, a sample of 100 students was recruited to participate in an EMA study, gathering data on consequences, consequence evaluations, and contextual factors (mood, event-level normative perceptions of consequences). Analyses examined (a) contextual predictors of consequence evaluations, and (b) both real-time and next day evaluations as predictors of both latency to and amount of drinking at the next drinking event. Results inform our understanding of college students’ decisions to drink and help identify potential targets of intervention. 

Linked publications: