Modeling Marijuana Use Willingness and Problems as a Function of Social Rejection and Social Anxiety Among Adolescents

Cannabis is the second most commonly used substance in the US and diagnosed substance use disorder. Those with social anxiety appear to be at heightened risk for experiencing problems, possibly because they begin to use cannabis as a means of managing their symptoms in social situations. Unfortunately, research on samples prime for early intervention (adolescents, non-treatment seeking) is fairly limited. This study aims to address this gap using a carefully controlled, laboratory-based experimental test on the extent to which acute social anxiety/stress influences 'real-time' decision-making to use cannabis within a simulated party setting. Adolescents aged 15-17 years reporting any lifetime cannabis use were recruited from the community. Results will provide insight on the relative role of social context, social stress, person-level social anxiety symptoms, and acute social anxiety symptoms on real-time willingness and desire to use as well as the specificity of the effects for cannabis versus alcohol or non-substance use offers. (F31 DA041105; PI: Cloutier)

Status: Paper in Preparation

An Experimental Investigation of Peer Rejection and Social Anxiety on Alcohol and Cannabis Use Willingness: Accounting for Social Contexts and Use Cues in the Laboratory

Alcohol and cannabis are the two most commonly used substances and diagnosed use disorders in the US. Evidence suggests that social anxiety is a risk factor for problematic alcohol and cannabis use, particularly during states of social stress. Though poly-substance use is common among emerging adult college students and social cues play a major role in real time use behaviors, many studies test the mechanisms for substances in isolation using tasks that remove social context cues. This study addresses this gap using a carefully controlled, laboratory-based experimental test on the extent to which acute social anxiety/stress influences 'real-time' decision-making to use cannabis and/or alcohol within a simulated party setting where both substances are offered. Emerging adults (ages 18-25) enrolled in college and reporting any lifetime cannabis and alcohol use were recruited. Results will provide insight on the relative role of social anxiety, context, and real-time alcohol and cannabis use decision-making processes. (Unfunded: PI: Cloutier)

Status: Paper Under Review

Female Adolescent Development and Emotions

Adolescence is a key developmental period in terms of the onset of anxiety psychopathology, particularly among girls. An emerging literature suggests that pubertal maturation specifically, as opposed to chronological age generally, is associated with enhanced vulnerability for anxiety symptomatology among female adolescents (Reardon et al., 2009). Despite a theoretical basis for expecting pubertal maturation to relate to social anxiety, only a few studies have directly investigated this relation among youth (Blumenthal et al., 2009, 2011; Deardorff et al., 2007; Ge et al., 2006), and no work has yet examined how specific features of the pubertal process (e.g., cognitive development; social changes; enhanced stress responsivity) may confer risk for the onset and maintenance of social anxiety. The current study is designed to expand existing work linking advancing pubertal status and elevated social anxiety by systematically examining relations among several theoretically-relevant components of the pubertal process and social anxiety indices (1) in the lab, and (2) over time. These data will help clarify the nature and boundaries of this linkage, and thus aid in targeting risk-reduction and prevention-oriented efforts aimed at adolescent social anxiety. Indeed, as puberty is a normative developmental process, and thus cannot be considered pathogenic in-and-of itself, it will be necessary to characterize which, how, and in what contexts the features of this process function to enhance risk. Given the limited work available, the current study is largely exploratory in nature. Assessments were carefully selected to reflect theoretically-relevant components of cognitive (e.g., logical reasoning; imaginary audience), emotional (e.g., negative affectivity), social (e.g., sources of support; conformity), risk-related (substance use; sleep patterns) and physical (e.g., self-reported somatic changes; hormonal stress response) development. (Unfunded: PI: Blumenthal; Role: Project Coordinator, Co-Author, Lead Author on Secondary Analyses)

Status: Primary Paper in Prep

Other Publications:

Cloutier, R. M., Blumenthal, H., Trim, R. S., Douglas, M. E., & Anderson, K. G. (2019). Real-time social stress response and subsequent alcohol use initiation among female adolescents. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33(3), 254. https://doi.org/ 10.1037/adb0000454 . PMCID: PMC6483836

Desire to Drink as a Function of Laboratory-Induced Social Stress among
Adolescents

Research consistently demonstrates a link between social anxiety and alcohol-related problems; however, the majority of work has been retrospective, and conducted with adults. Despite an extensive literature highlighting coping-related motives as an underlying mechanism, real-time work presents mixed findings, and no published research has examined an adolescent sample using experimental psychopathology techniques. The current study tested whether (1) history of social anxiety symptoms positively correlated with alcohol-related cognitions following laboratory-induced social stress, (2) state anxiety was positively correlated with alcohol-related cognitions, and (3) whether the nature of the stressor (performance versus rejection) impacted the strength of identified relations, in a sample of community-recruited adolescents reporting recent alcohol use. Participants (n=114; Mage=16.01; 64% girls) were randomly assigned to either a performance- or rejection-oriented task. Findings suggest that socially-oriented distress may be a developmentally-relevant, malleable target for efforts aimed at problematic alcohol use among adolescents. (Unfunded: PI: Blumenthal; Role: Project Coordinator & Coauthor)

Status: Paper Under Review