Exploring Substance Abuse Treatment: Latinos Can Make a Difference in the Stimulus Research Study

Substance abuse in the US is a public health problem that affects many people, including Latinos.

Yet, Latinos are less likely than their White peers to get treatment they need.

There is a new investigational treatment for substance abuse —the use of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic pulses to temporarily stimulate areas of the brain.

Fortunately, you can make a difference by representing Latinos in the Stimulus Research Study, a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio and other sites that will help researchers learn if the use of rTMS can help people reduce or stop their cocaine or methamphetamine use.

“The rTMS clinical trial and others like it hope to develop and apply new treatments that work for Latinos and all people who struggle with substance abuse,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.

What Is the Stimulus Research Study?

This study aims to determine feasibility of rTMS for individuals with moderate to severe cocaine or methamphetamine use disorder.

Participants will be randomized to one of two groups. Fluency in English is required, as study materials will be provided in English.

Over the course of 8 weeks, one group will receive rTMS and the other group will receive a placebo. Each participant will complete follow-up assessments at the end of treatment, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks after randomization.

“[rTMS] isn’t invasive, doesn’t require anesthesia and can be performed on an outpatient basis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “You don’t need to arrange for someone to drive you home after treatment — unless, for the first treatment, you prefer a driver until you get a sense of how you’ll feel afterward.”

Who is Eligible for the Stimulus Study?

Researchers are looking for adults ages 18-65 who are interested in cutting down or stopping cocaine or methamphetamine use.

You can join the trial at one of four locations:

UT Health San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

Contact: Melissa Martinez, [email protected]

To receive more information about the study and to schedule an appointment, call: 210-450-3760, or email [email protected]

UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

Contact: Michael Henson, 214-648-8415, [email protected]

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Contact: Hilary Smith, 336-713-7848, [email protected]

Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina

Contact: Alexandra Herron, 843-214-4496, [email protected]

Eligible participants will receive compensation for their time.

More information on the Stimulus Study can be found here.

Why Is the Stimulus Research Study Important for Latinos?

Latinos have similar rates of substance abuse compared to the overall US population.

However, they do not have as great of access to substance abuse treatment compared to their white counterparts, according to American Addiction Centers.

Reasons for this health inequity include language barriers, work demands, the stigma of substance abuse, lack of health insurance, and ability to afford treatment, according to a study by Dr. Anna Pagano of the University of California, San Francisco, in the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse.

System-level barriers can play a role, too.

For example, Dr. Pagano’s study reported that Latinos may face long waiting lists and some programs’ reluctance or inability to admit unauthorized immigrants.

Further, undocumented Latino migrants often avoid treatment programs and other forms of health care because they fear their legal status will be revealed to immigration authorities.

“Due to these barriers, Latino migrants often go without treatment until they are court-mandated to a program (e.g., following a DUI conviction) or suffer injuries and other substance use-related health crises that require emergency medical services,” Dr. Pagano’s study reported.

Why Should Latinos Consider Joining a Clinical Trial?

Latinos are generally underrepresented in clinical trials, like the Stimulus Study.

This can impact Latino health outcomes.

Latinos participate in clinical trials at far lower rates than other ethnic groups. Without an accurate representation of the Latino population in clinical trials, it may be more challenging for researchers to find treatments that work best for Latinos, which further contributes to health disparities,” Dr. Ramirez said.

Dr. Ramirez is creating new ways to urge Latinos to volunteer for clinical trials thanks to a grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

We need Latino volunteers for clinical trials because it helps researchers create treatments and solutions tailored for this population.

Just ask Alma Lopez.

Breast cancer is the top cause of death for Latinas, but Alma Lopez has been a breast cancer survivor for more than 15 years.

She believes participating in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio helped her get better treatment and better long-term health.

“Clinical trials are great for finding new treatments that help people,” Lopez said. “And it helps the scientists. It gives opportunity to better medication for all populations.”


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