NIH – Marijuana, Prescription Opioid, or Prescription Benzodiazepine Drug Use Among Older Adults (R01, R03, R21)

March 10, 2017 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The following description was taken from the R01 version of this FOA.

Given the potentially serious consequences of drug use in later life, it is important to understand the antecedent factors and subsequent outcomes associated with marijuana and prescription opioid and benzodiazepine use in older individuals. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) have forged a collaborative partnership to support innovative research that improves our understanding of the predictors of marijuana, opioid, or benzodiazepine use in later life, as well as the consequences of these drugs on the aging brain and associated behavioral and public health outcomes. While older adults abuse and use many substances with psychoactive properties, the intended emphasis of this funding opportunity is on marijuana or prescription opioids or benzodiazepines. This initiative will focus on two distinct older adult populations (over the age of 50): (1) individuals with earlier drug use onset who are now entering older age, or (2) individuals who initiate drug use after the age of 50. Insights gained from this initiative have the potential to inform the public and health care systems regarding cannabis and prescription drug use in older populations.

Research Focus

Applicants are encouraged to focus on exploring predictors and/or outcomes related to prescription drugs (opioids and benzodiazepines) or marijuana use in older adults. Two different populations are suggested for investigation: (1) individuals with drug use onset prior to the age of 50 who are now entering this period of older development; or (2) older adults with limited prior drug use who initiate drug use after the age of 50. For the purposes of this FOA, it is recommended that applications examine a broad range of adult ages over 50 years of age. This initiative will support epidemiological investigations, clinical studies in humans, and basic science research in animal models of substance use disorder. Whenever possible, epidemiological studies are encouraged to use datasets with information collected from earlier in the life course to better identify the diverse predictors of drug use in later life. Research relevant for this funding opportunity may also employ animal models that reflect the neuroadaptations and cognitive/behavioral processes that are observed during later stages of adult development. Mechanistic studies are encouraged to include a younger adult control group to determine if observations in older adults are unique to this later stage of development. Research applications that consider various forms of marijuana delivery (e.g., smoke, vapor, edibles) are strongly encouraged. Examples of research topics to be executed in older adults or age appropriate animal models include, but are not limited to:

Epidemiological Investigations

  • Causes and consequences of prescription opioid and benzodiazepine abuse and/or marijuana use or abuse
  • Qualitative and quantitative cohort differences in marijuana and prescription drug use
  • Factors that put individuals at-risk for drug use and misuse in later life (e.g., sociodemographic status, biological variables, psychological or cognitive function, personality, education)
  • Relationship between health care utilization factors and adverse events (i.e. health outcomes) associated with opioid use such as sleep breathing disorders, cardiac arrhythmias, falls and fractures among elderly
  • Role of individual physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and state regulations on long-term opioid use (i.e. pathways leading to dependence on opioid use) and related adverse outcomes
  • Effect of physician and hospital-level opioid prescribing patterns in patients with mild-cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Socio-economic risk factors and disparities contributing to drug use related to pain and disability
  • Contributions of marijuana legalization policy to the perception, initiation, continuation, and prevalence of cannabis use
  • Medical conditions reported for cannabis use
  • Prevalence of drug substitution and associated health conditions
  • Predominate marijuana route of administration and method of consumption over time (e.g., smoke, vapor, edibles)
  • Health outcomes in substance users or previously drug-naïve users with or without HIV

Clinical/Basic Science Research

  • Contribution of drug use during aging to the development of substance abuse or dependence and the associated vulnerability/resilience factors
  • Changes in cognitive, motivation, affect, emotion regulation, and self-regulatory (e.g., sleep, physical activity, adherence to medications) processes associated with marijuana, benzodiazepine, or opioid use
  • Impact of prior drug use on the emergence of age-related cognitive deficits (e.g., working memory, attention, impulsivity, cognitive control, behavioral flexibility)
  • Impact of drug use on driving performance, balance, mobility and fall risk as a measure of changes in the older brain
  • Sex differences across all levels of analysis for prescription opioid or benzodiazepine or cannabis
  • Efficacy of behavioral and pharmacological treatment approaches for substance use disorders in older individuals
  • Aging-relevant characterization of physiological symptoms associated with substance use disorder (e.g., tolerance, withdrawal, etc)
  • Neurobiological and behavioral outcomes during drug acquisition, escalation, withdrawal, abstinence, and relapse phases
  • Aging-related changes in responsivity to ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or other phytocannabinoids across all levels of analysis (behavior, functional neuroscience, epi/genetics, physiology)
  • Aging associated changes in responsivity to opioids and benzodiazepines across all levels of analysis (behavior, functional neuroscience, epi/genetics, physiology)
  • Neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory effects related to marijuana or prescription drug use
  • Functional neurobiological consequences following cannabis and/or prescription drug use (e.g., neurochemical changes, neural plasticity, receptor density, circuitry or connectivity, etc.)
  • Consequences of aging on metabolic and physiological changes related to marijuana use
  • Impact of cannabis, opioids, or benzodiazepines on neurogenesis

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities