SPOKANE, Wash. – John Roll, a researcher with a track record in funding from the National Institute for Drug Abuse, a National Institutes of Health agency, is joining the faculty at Washington State University Spokane.

Roll has been named assistant director of substance abuse and other addictive disorders research at the Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training, housed at WSU Spokane. 

He describes his research as addressing both basic and applied questions about drug use. On the basic science side, he examines behavioral pharmacology: how drugs, the organism and the environment interact to influence how the drug is used and how dependence develops.

On the applied side, he examines the effectiveness of behavioral therapies that get drug users to replace drug use with other behaviors that are more rewarding, also known as contingency management. He has studied behavioral treatments for smoking in teens and for use of drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine, including an evaluation of behavioral therapy in combination with drug court procedures.

While his work has been focused on treatment, Roll said his goal is to move more toward the prevention side. He takes a big-picture approach to drug use, believing that it requires a combination of treatment, prevention and law enforcement to tackle it, along with an understanding of the challenges faced by those who are particularly at risk.

He has been a principal investigator or co-/sub- investigator on numerous grants totaling several million dollars, most of them from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (a unit of the National Institutes of Health). He is also the scientific director of Friends Research Institute Inc., a nonprofit research institute. Most recently he served as director of behavioral pharmacology in UCLA’s integrated substance abuse programs.

Three times named outstanding graduate student by the psychology department at WSU, Roll earned his doctoral degree in psychology from the university in 1994. He holds a master’s degree in psychology from Saint Bonaventure University, where he was also named outstanding graduate student and had his thesis honored as the most outstanding. His bachelor’s degree in psychology is from the University of Montana. He has had postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Vermont and University of Michigan.

Michael Hendryx, director of WIMIRT, said, “We’re delighted to have a researcher of Dr. Roll’s caliber, with both basic and applied expertise. Many people with mental illnesses have co-occurring substance abuse issues, so his knowledge will help us expand our work in evidence-based best practices in mental health treatment.”

Related Web sites:

Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training: www.wimirt.spokane.wsu.edu