Fran and Doug Tieman Center for Research

Through active participation in research, Caron helps advance the industry with evidence-based solutions for substance use disorders.

Welcome to the Fran and Doug Tieman Center for Research

The Center conducts cutting-edge research to better understand, prevent, and treat addiction. Addiction is a complex, multi-factorial disease that affects individuals, their families, and communities. That complexity calls for a multi-pronged approach to treatment and prevention. In partnership with our colleagues at various organizations, including Penn State Hershey and the National Institutes of Health, we are exploring novel biomedical approaches to find long-lasting solutions to the public health problem of addiction.

Caron's diverse group of experienced researchers collaborate with external partners to conduct research propelled by out-of-the-box thinking.

Research Vision and Mission

Vision: Advancing knowledge and providing evidence-based solutions in the field of addiction through biomedical research and training.

Mission: Caron Treatment Centers is committed to the continued growth of knowledge of the disease of addiction and how it affects individuals and families. To this end, the Fran and Doug Tieman Center for Research is devoted to:

  • Exploring the roots of the disease of addiction in all its many facets.
  • Conducting high-quality biomedical research with integrity.
  • Disseminating research findings aimed to advance the treatment of addictive diseases.
Research Center Infographic

Support research at Caron.

Highlights from Completed Research Projects

Use of a Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1RA) Agonist to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

Collaboration with Penn State College of Medicine, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Caron’s research team was part of this groundbreaking study that could lead to a potential new treatment option for opioid use disorder, especially when used in combination with existing medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

The recently completed study examined the efficacy of liraglutide as a potential medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Liraglutide belongs to a class of medications called GLP-1RAs and is currently FDA-approved to treat Type II diabetes (at 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg) and obesity (at 3.0 mg). Liraglutide regulates appetite and glucose-dependent insulin secretion and slows gastric emptying. This leads to lower blood sugar levels and decreased appetite.

Researchers from Penn State Hershey Medical Center were interested in how liraglutide might also be able to decrease drug-seeking in humans. The animal model research demonstrated that acute treatment with liraglutide reduced cue- and drug-induced seeking for both heroin and fentanyl.

Caron patients with opioid use disorder who met the inclusion criteria could choose to participate in this study. This was a randomized, controlled, double-blind study with both a medication (liraglutide, up to 1.8mg/d) and placebo arm. During the 21-day study, patients completed surveys via a smartphone to measure cravings and mood so data could be captured in real time. To ensure patient health, researchers collected data on liver function, glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation.

The study found that liraglutide can be administered safely in this population. It also significantly reduced cravings compared to placebo and that reduction began with the lowest dose. In addition, it significantly reduced craving in the afternoon and evening when generally there is a rise. The group that received liraglutide in combination with medication-assisted treatment appeared to have the best results.

Penn State researchers will now try to replicate the study with a larger outpatient population.

Current Research Projects

Please note: in cases where Caron’s participation in projects includes patients, they have elected to participate in the research and have been provided detailed information about what participation entails.

Exploring the use of the Bridge device (an auricular percutaneous nerve field stimulator) as a modality for reducing symptoms of opioid withdrawal in patients during inpatient detoxification.

Alternative approaches to chronic pain are gaining traction as legitimate options in healthcare. In this instance, the Caron research team is evaluating whether a nerve stimulation device offers sufficient relief from withdrawal symptoms when compared with a placebo device. If effective, the device would decrease the need for medications in patients going through withdrawal.

In collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania

This study will evaluate the potential beneficial effects of ketone supplementation for alcohol detoxification in inpatients with alcohol use disorder. The proposed intervention has been developed based on neurobiological studies on brain metabolism in alcohol use disorder and previous work on the beneficial effects of ketogenic diet in alcohol use disorder during detoxification. A non-invasive dietary supplement that reduces withdrawal severity in alcohol use disorder would provide a novel therapeutic option for alcohol use disorder during alcohol detoxification.

In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University

The purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions of substance use treatment providers — counselors, social workers, psychologists, and therapists — and individuals in recovery on the medical use of psilocybin as a treatment modality for substance use disorders.

In collaboration with Auburn University at Montgomery Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory

This study will explore whether machine intelligence through the use of large datasets can identify predictors of positive/negative outcomes in substance use treatment.

Project CONNECT is a grant-funded program administered by Caron’s Education Department.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the fidelity and effectiveness of the Project CONNECT nicotine cessation program. Fidelity will be assessed via several indicators, including program adherence, and participant attendance and retention. Effectiveness will be determined by evaluating reduction in use/ cessation of nicotine products, commitment to change, and increase in knowledge.

The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of the Veterans Healing through Connection Workshop on couples’ relationships. This is assessed immediately after the workshop and three months later.

The purpose of this study is to examine burnout in therapists, counselors, psychologists, and social workers who treat substance use disorders both in and outpatient and explore whether personality variables help mediate or exacerbate burnout in providers.

Recent Research Projects

A pilot open trial in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine

Sleep plays a significant role in emotional, mental, and physical wellness. The goal of this study is to explore whether suvorexant, a sleep medication approved by the FDA, can reduce the risk of relapse by improving the quality of sleep and reducing cravings.

Collaboration with SOLVD Health

Caron participated in research with SOLVD Health to develop a gene-based risk assessment tool to identify individuals at risk for opioid use disorder. This non-invasive genetic test is currently under FDA review.

Collaboration with Penn State College of Medicine

This pilot study was designed to measure prefrontal cortex brain activity leveraging the portability and accuracy of functional near infrared spectroscopy (FNIRS) neuroimaging. FNIRS findings predicted relapse approximately 85% of the time.

See Who's Leading Caron's Research

Related Resources

A man and a woman leaning on each other

Take the next step:

Start a conversation

Start with an online form

Contact us