Operant Conditioning to Combat Addiction, Unemployment, and Poverty
Shrinidhi Subramaniam (California State University, Stanislaus)
Biography:Dr. Shrinidhi Subramaniam is an Assistant Professor in Psychology at California State University, Stanislaus and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Dr. Subramaniam received her PhD in Psychology from West Virginia University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She teaches courses in applied behavior analysis, research methods, ethics, and addiction treatment, and mentors graduate students in their thesis research. Dr. Subramaniam’s research applies behavior analytic principles to solve problems like addiction, unemployment, and poverty in her community. Currently, her lab is evaluating the feasibility of a contingency management program to engage residential substance use disorder patients in continuing care. In addition to this work, she has published over 20 manuscripts and chapters across broad research interests. These publications include clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of behavioral interventions like incentives and education, and basic and translational studies exploring processes underlying human decision making such as choice and temporal learning. Dr. Subramaniam is an Associate Editor for The Psychological Record, is on the editorial board for the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and serves as the Board Secretary of the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior. She is the Association for Behavior Analysis, International’s 2022 winner of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Early Career Impact Award.
Abstract: Over 37 million people in the United States lived in poverty in 2020. Poverty is a top risk factor for premature mortality and can exacerbate other health conditions like drug addiction. There is a clear relation between poverty, unemployment, and addiction. Addiction is more prevalent in unemployed than employed individuals and employment predicts positive treatment outcomes in people with addiction. Two evidence-based approaches to combat addiction and poverty are to: 1) treat addiction using incentives to promote drug abstinence (a proximal intervention), or 2) address poverty with education and job-skills training (a distal intervention). In this presentation, I will highlight behavior analytic research merging a proximal and distal approach to treat addiction in unemployed adults living in poverty. These studies evaluated the effectiveness of wage supplements to increase competitive employment and promote drug abstinence; assessed job readiness in this population; and incentivized job readiness activities during the search for employment. Interventions that promote full-time, steady employment can help improve socioeconomic position and have the added benefit of removing barriers to addiction recovery.