Comorbid Addiction and Mental Illness Laboratory




Within the science of clinical psychology, Dr. McChargue's broad research interests have been a) to study the basic mechanisms that underlie substance use among those prone to co-morbid mental and physical illness and b) to use such information to inform treatment development efforts for the same populations. Specific areas of interest include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression and trauma among college binge drinkers and marijuana users as well as among individuals recoverying from substance dependence (primarily alcohol dependence).  Other factors of interest include cognitive models of prepetration and sexual abuse risk among substance using populations, socio-environmental factors that impede treatment success among those with co-occurring disorders and the development of novel treatment modalities for binge drinking populations (e.g., teleconferencing, protective behavioral strategy approaches). 

Much of Dr. McChargue's research in co-occurring substance use and mental health is based on three theoretical considerations. First, co-morbid substance use and mental/physical health interact in such a way to affect the course and prognosis of both (NIDA, 2009). Second, co-morbidity is driven partially by genetic/neurobiological vulnerabilities (Koob & Le Moal, 2001; Robinson & Berridge, 2001) and partially by self-medicating behavior (Khantzian, 1997; 2003); theoretically, producing a disproportionately stronger motivation/effort (wanting) to obtain the substance despite diminished hedonic drug effects (liking). Third, contemporary treatments fail to address such vulnerabilities (SAMHSA, 2005). As such, Dr. McChargue's overarching goals are designed to improve the gaps in knowledge related to such assumptions and to improve treatment targeting such co-morbidity.

Dr. McChargue focus on the reduction of harm among binge drinkers is based on brief motivational enhancement modalities.  He is particularly interested in social cognitive factors that promote selective harm (e.g., sexual assault) and may also be used to reduce harm (increase in protective behavioral strategies).  He is also interested in cross-cultural/cross-country difference (US vs Philippines) as well as developing interventions that are appropriate to test such differences (e.g., teleconferencing, texting, web-based interventions).  Within his work on dual reduction of alcohol-related and sexual assualt-related harm, he utilizes the I3 theory (Stotter & Finkel, 2011) as a meta-organizational framework to explore this risk.  I3 suggests that instigating triggers (e.g., sexual rejection) enhance the probability of aggression via the interaction between impelling forces (e.g., attitudes) and dis/Inhibiting forces (e.g., alcohol).  We are particularly interested in examining social cognitive decision-making mechanism within this framework.

To accomplish these goals, Dr. McChargue has developed research partnerships with universities and community agencies. He has also integrated clinical training within his research agenda at a variety of agencies (see Clinical Opportunity tab). Dr. McChargue supervises the direct services provided through these clinical opportunities.

The services provided include:

  • Brief motivational enhancement treatment for college binge drinkers
  • Evidence-based individual psychotherapy targeting the mental health issues of university and community clients with co-morbid substance use disorders.
  • Evidence-based individual psychotherapy targeting substance use problems of university and community clients
  • 4-12 week manualized group therapies for patients in residential and outpatient substance use treatment programs. Group treatments being developed and tested by Dr. McChargue's lab included social anxiety, behavioral activation and experiential anger management. We are also disseminating a seeking-safety treatment for women felons with co-morbid trauma and substance use histories.