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Syracuse Psychologist to Study Smoking and Painkiller Misuse Among Older Adults with HIV and Chronic Pain

Joseph Ditre receives $412,000 National Institute on Drug Abuse research grant

Sep 15, 2014 | Article by: Sarah Scalese

Joseph Ditre


Joseph Ditre, assistant professor of psychology in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is readying a significant study that may help older adults with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and chronic pain quit tobacco smoking and reduce their misuse of prescription painkillers. Ditre is the recipient of a $412,000 research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“I am eager to get this research started and to work with a population that may benefit from an intervention that addresses interrelations between smoking behavior, chronic pain, and prescription analgesic consumption” says Ditre, a Syracuse faculty member since 2010. “My goal is to adapt and pilot-test an integrated, computer-based personalized feedback intervention, or PFI, for older adults with comorbid [i.e., concurrent] HIV and chronic pain, aimed at increasing intentions to quit smoking and at decreasing intentions to misuse prescription painkiller medications.”

The prevalence of smoking among people with HIV is three times greater than that of the general population. Older HIV smokers are particularly vulnerable to chronic pain and opioid misuse, due, in part, to complex nicotine-opioid interactions. Ditre says this PFI has the potential to help many people quit smoking and reduce medication misuse because it is portable, adaptable, cost-effective, and may be delivered to a large number of patients by non-specialized care providers.

“Given that the vast majority of all smokers with HIV are not yet ready to quit smoking, research designed to increase motivation and confidence to quit smoking is both novel and consistent with the needs of the target population,” he adds.

Ditre will recruit and observe 76 older tobacco smokers with comorbid HIV and chronic pain from the Designated AIDS Center at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Participants will then be randomly assigned to either Active or Control PFI conditions. The Active PFI will include content relevant to interactions between chronic pain, tobacco smoking, and prescription painkiller misuse in the context of HIV and aging. The Control PFI will include content relevant to the importance of exercise, nutrition, and medication adherence in the context of HIV and aging.

"I am delighted that this prestigious grant award came through for Joe,” says Peter Vanable, professor and chair of psychology. “Men and women living with HIV face a broad range of challenges, including high rates of tobacco use and chronic pain. Joe and his team are uniquely situated to develop an innovative approach that will benefit this vulnerable patient population."

Ditre earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida. Prior to joining the Syracuse University faculty, he served as assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University. He is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, the American Pain Society, and the International Association for the Study of Pain.

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Contact Information

Sarah Scalese
315-443-8085
sescales@syr.edu