Skip over navigation
Brown shieldBrown shieldBrown University Brown shieldBrown shieldBrown UniversityAlcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University

Damaris Rohsenow

Professor (Research):
Behavioral and Social Sciences
Phone: +1 401 863 6648

1) Smoking among alcoholics and substance abusers: interactions and treatment
2) New pharmacotherapies for tobacco or alcohol dependence
3) Role of caffeinated alcohol in workplace or academic performance and driving
4) Cue exposure, coping skills treatment, motivational enhancement and other new behavioral treatments for alcoholism or cocaine abuse
5) Effects of hangover on performance in simulators
6)Development of new assessment tools for alcohol, nicotine and cocaine dependence


Brief Bio

Dr. Rohsenow is a professor (research) of Behavioral and Social Sciences, associate director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, and a senior research career scientist at the Providence VA Medical Center. She is director of a postdoctoral T32 training grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse on Substance Abuse Intervention Outcome Research in its second five-year period. She has published hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters primarily in the area of substance use and abuse, and co-authored the second edition of the book, Treating Alcohol Dependence. Over the past two decades, her work has focused on studying basic processes and conducting treatment outcome studies for addictive disorders including smoking, alcohol abuse, and cocaine abuse, using both behavioral and pharmacologic approaches.
Dr. Rohsenow is currently Principal Investigator on a NIDA grant to evaluate contingent reinforcement for smoking abstinence when added to nicotine replacement and an intervention to motivate substance abusers to quit smoking; and a NIDA grant to evaluate the efficacy of the medication varenicline for smoking abstinence among substance dependent patients who smoke. She has completed a study of the effects of a new medication (baclofen) on tobacco withdrawal and smoking cue reactivity; a study of the effects of ondansetron crossed with high dose naltrexone on drinking urges among abstinent alcoholics and on reactions to alcohol ingestion among alcoholic drinkers not seeking treatment, as moderated by promising individual difference variables (genetic and history); and several studies of the efficacy of motivational intervention, brief advice to quit smoking to encourage smoking cessation, and contingent vouchers among smokers with alcohol or substance dependence in residential treatment. She currently collaborates on a nationwide survey of effects of energy drinks mixed with alcohol and was co-Principal Investigator on studies of the acute and residual effects of caffeinated beer on driving performance and sleep disruption. She recently completed various grant-funded studies of the effects of hangover on maritime ship handling, neuropsychological abilities, and academic performance, after developing an acute hangover scale for use in laboratory investigations. She is also co-investigator on grants investigating medication or smoking effects on urges and drinking of social drinkers in the lab or natural environment, studies of interventions with teen or young adult drinkers, effects of smoking medications on responses of schizophrenic smokers, and several grants with current or former postdoctoral fellows.

Mentoring experience:
Dr. Rohsenow is Director of the CAAS's T32 postdoctoral training grant from NIDA on substance abuse intervention outcome research, and serves on the training committee for the Center's NIAAA-funded postdoctoral training grant on alcohol intervention research. The combined T32 program that she serves on has 15-16 fellows in training each year with a variety of seminars and training opportunities. In recent years she mentored five faculty with a career development awards (one currently). She has mentored numerous psychology residents in research placements and postdoctoral fellows in clinical research training.


Overview of Current Research Projects
Damaris J. Rohsenow, Ph.D.

My research program has focused on social learning theory oriented approaches to the etiology and treatment of alcoholism, cocaine abuse and smoking, on the development of behavioral and pharmacologic treatment approaches, and on determinants and effects of nonalcoholic drinking.
Smoking interventions. Because alcoholics smoke at an exceptionally high rate and are resistant to quitting, I conducted a series of studies investigating the role of smoking in risk for relapse for alcoholics. I completed a smoking treatment trial for alcoholics in state funded alcohol treatment in which brief motivational intervention was compared to brief advice to quit smoking, started in their first two weeks of treatment. A second treatment trial for substance abusers in an inner-city residential substance abuse treatment program compared motivational interviewing to brief advice to quit smoking (three sessions of each) crossed with contingent monetary rewards for providing breath samples showing abstinence from smoking as compared to a control procedure. Several pilot studies then compared variants of the contingency management procedure to select the next step. Currently I have two studies with drug dependent smokers: one comparing contingency management to a control procedure when added to nicotine patch and counseling, and the other investigating the benefits of varenicline vs. patch. Postdocs have added measures to these studies and assisted with treatment. I currently need help writing up the completed trials.
Laboratory investigations of medications for smoking. (Funded by VA Merit Review, PI: Rohsenow.) I have been using laboratory procedures to investigate promising new medication approaches for smoking cessation.
1) A pilot study that showed that naltrexone combined with nicotine replacement significantly reduced smoking cue-elicited urge to smoke and withdrawal relative to nicotine replacement alone.
2) A larger trial of naltrexone (50 mg. vs. placebo) and nicotine replacement (0, 21 mg, 42 mg) showed little beneficial effect of combining naltrexone with transdermal nicotine overall, and showed that transdermal nicotine only reduces urges to smoke at the 42 mg dose, not the usually recommended 21 mg dose.
3) A third trial found significant effects of a dopamine antagonist (olanzapine) on smoking urge and withdrawal at the low dose (2.5 mg) but not the high dose (5.0 mg).
4) The recently completed project investigated baclofen, a GABAergic medication, for effects on urge, withdrawal, and reinforcement from smoking. Analyses yet to be done.
Laboratory investigations of medications for alcoholism. 1) I completed two studies that a single dose or two weeks of dosing with naltrexone significantly reduced urge to drink and self-reported attention to the cues in the presence of alcohol cues, but not in response to juice or water cues, indicating that naltrexone's effect is not mediated by effects on appetite in general. 2) I recently completed a pair of laboratory studies of high doses naltrexone crossed with ondansetron for effects on reactions of alcoholics to the presence of alcohol cues and of the subjective effects of drinking alcohol by problem drinkers who have not sought treatment. (Funded by NIAAA, PI: Rohsenow.) These laboratory investigations provide a cost-efficient way to provide preliminary evidence for or against new pharmacologic agents, and to investigate hypothesized mediating mechanisms of effect. Analyses are done, writing is needed.
Caffeine's effects with alcohol. I am collaborating on a new nationwide survey of effects of energy drinks mixed with alcohol. Previously, I was co-Principal Investigator on studies of the acute and residual effects of caffeinated beer on driving performance and sleep disruption. Our last study showed that caffeinated beer does not improve performance in driving while at .12 g% or the next morning compared to usual beer and to placebo beer.

Past projects:
Cocaine treatment and assessment studies. With cocaine abusers, I developed a coping skills training package that resulted in significantly fewer cocaine use days during the first 6 months of follow up. I conducted another treatment trial in which motivational enhancement procedures were added to the coping skills training to determine the increased effectiveness of the combined approaches. Third, I completed a study to investigate the extent to which urges to use cocaine predict cocaine use during follow up in a multivariate analysis including other pretreatment predictors. This study also compared the relative effectiveness and predictive power of various different methods of assessing urge to use cocaine during treatment and the effectiveness of various coping strategies. In this program of research, numerous new assessment instruments have been developed psychometrically and have been published. The skills treatment was selected by NIDA for their library of evidence-based treatments. Considerable data are still to be mined and analyzed.
Alcohol treatment trials. I conducted several treatment studies with alcoholics. 1) Cue exposure treatment and communication skills training resulted in lower relapse rates and longer latency to the first drink than did any other combination of treatments. 2) We combined the cue exposure and communication skills training package with naltrexone versus placebo and evaluated the effects on treatment outcome. Naltrexone reduced drinking quantity only during the 12 weeks of medication, and only among those who took at least 70% of the medication. The behavioral treatment resulted in significantly less drinking that the control group during both the 6 and 12 month follow ups, showing lasting beneficial effects at low cost (5 sessions). 3) Secondary analyses demonstrated predictors of treatment compliance and that medication effects were limited to people with high density of family history or who were more psychopathic. Certain urge-specific coping skills during follow-up were associated with better outcomes, and others were ineffective. 4) We completed a trial of naltrexone with heavy drinkers who had not sought treatment and who carry palm-top computers to record data in the natural environment and now are investigating topiramate the same way. (PI: Monti, Co-PI: Rohsenow.)
Effects of low-dose alcohol and hangover on commercial ship handling. (PI: Howland, Co-PI: Rohsenow.) 1) In two studies, we showed that a low dose of alcohol (.04 gm% blood alcohol level) significantly impairs the performance of experienced ship engineer cadets and ship pilot cadets on commercial ship simulators. This has implications for policy, and raises the question as to whether even lower doses are unsafe. 2) We completed a study of very low doses of alcohol for effects on power plant simulators. Data analysis is underway. 3) We have completed two studies of the effects of drinking to .10-.12 g% on next morning ship simulator performance. In one, we found no impaired performance on ship power plant performance although people rated themselves as more hung over and impaired. We developed and validated a new Acute Hangover Scale using this work. In the study using experienced pilots and a bridge simulator, we are finding impaired performance after a night of drinking to 0.10 gm% on serious events (running aground) but no effect on routine activities (steering, reporting). 4) Another study investigated hangover effects on sleep and academic performance in college student, while varying congener content of beverages. Congener effects were found only on subjective hangover symptoms. Alcohol impaired reaction time and sleep (studied with polysomnography) but sleep effects did not mediate effects on performance. 5) A seasickness medication was found not to impair maritime cadet performance on ship simulators.




Senior Research Career Scientist award, Department of Veterans Affairs. Awarded April 2009.

Research Career Scientist awards, Department of Veterans Affairs, awarded April 2004 and April 1999.
Masters of Arts ad eundem, Brown University, Providence, RI. Awarded May 1991.

NIAAA Postdoctoral Training Fellowship. Awarded October 1977.
Graduated Cum Laude, University of Washington, 1970.



American Psychological Association
Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
Research Society on Alcoholism
College on Problems in Drug Dependence
Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco


Director, Training program in Substance Abuse Intervention Outcome Research, Brown University, 2003 - 2013. Training postdoctoral fellows in behavioral and pharmacologic approaches to assessing, studying, and intervening with substance abuse.

Member, training committee, combined T32 postdoctoral training program in alcohol and substance abuse intervention research, Brown University, about 20 years.

Funded Research

Grants of which I am PI or Co-PI:

1R01DA024652-01 (Rohsenow) 6/16/08-3/31/14
Agency: NIDA
Varenicline and motivational advice for smokers with SUD
Aim: Effects of varenicline vs. transdermal nicotine for smoking cessation for smokers with substance dependence.

1 R01 DA023995-01A1 (Rohsenow) 7/15/08-5/31/14
Contingent vouchers for smoking in substance abusers as adjunct to nicotine patch
Aim: Whether contingent reinforcement increases smoking abstinence in drug abusers in counseling/patch.

2T32 DA016184-06 (Rohsenow) 07/01/08 - 06/30/13 (Renewal pending)
Substance Abuse Intervention Outcome Research Training
Aim: Train postdoctoral fellows in the conduct of intervention research.

Curriculum Vitae

Download Damaris Rohsenow's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format