Nearly 92,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2020, according to numbers recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths. While organizations across the nation are working to better understand this crisis and provide prevention interventions, there remains a strong and unmet need to break the cycle of intergenerational addiction – families in which children are affected by their parent’s addiction.
Opioid misuse often begins in adolescence, with parental drug use as a risk factor for children. Khary Rigg, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, conducts research that focuses on understanding drugs and the health and well-being of people who use them. His new project will facilitate wider adoption of a program called Families Facing the Future, an evidence-based intervention designed specifically for families with a parent in methadone treatment that simultaneously addresses both recovery for parents and prevention for children.
“Training parents during their own treatment to act as prevention agents for their children holds incredible promise for breaking the cycle of addiction,” said Rigg. “This project will support both the parent and child and will harness the power of the parent-child relationship to keep patients focused on treatment and improve recovery outcomes.”
The Families Facing the Future program uses parent training and case management services to reduce family-related risk factors related to drug use, such as family dysfunction, and enhance protective factors, such as family bonding. The goal of the intervention is to prevent parents’ relapse, help them cope with relapse if it occurs, and teach parenting skills to reduce the likelihood of substance use among their children.
“The original program was never widely adopted because of implementation barriers including its length, intensity, and face-to-face in-home delivery,” said Rigg. “We are going to address those barriers and create a version of the program that is more feasible for methadone clinics to adopt more widely.”
Rigg’s team, which includes Dr. Steve Proctor of Thriving Mind South Florida, will begin by developing an adapted version of the intervention that removes these barriers. Then they will conduct an implementation and effectiveness trial before the final goal of scaling up the program for wide scale dissemination to methadone clinics across the state. Dr. Rigg will be working closely with Operation PAR, one of the largest methadone treatment providers in Florida, which will help to accelerate these improvements for opioid use disorder patients statewide and nationally.
“It is heartbreaking to consider how children right here in the Tampa Bay area and across our country can be impacted by their parent’s addiction,” said USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences Dean Julie Serovich, PhD. “It is my hope that Dr. Rigg’s research will allow us to offer critical support to these families and help provide a path forward.”
While the goal of the Families Facing the Future program is to reduce drug use among families and lower the number of overdose deaths in this high-risk group, it has also been found to have other benefits, such as reductions in family dysfunction, negative emotional states, school dropout, and delinquency.
Rigg recieved a $1.3 million award for this project, which is part of $10.9 million in new grants awarded by the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE) to fund prevention programs for vulnerable children and families across the country. Dr. Rigg’s grant was one of nine projects funded out of 400 submitted proposals. His project has the potential to make a unique impact on the opioid crisis because it seeks to improve and scale the only family-based intervention shown to prevent drug use among methadone patients and their children, and in so doing lower the number of overdose deaths among this overlooked group.