2018-07-12 / News

Alcohol research earns Brown teacher award

BY RYAN GIBBS


MONTI MONTI A Brown University professor from Beavertail Road has been lauded for his groundbreaking research on the effects of alcohol abuse.

Peter Monti, a pioneer in the study between contextual factors and addiction, was given the 10th annual Jack Mendelson Award by the National Institute of Health. The accolade recognizes “an outstanding alcohol investigator whose clinical research makes a substantial contribution toward increasing our understanding of the effects of alcohol on health.” The award’s namesake was a Harvard University professor who also directed the substance abuse center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

“It’s humbling,” said Monti, who joined the Ivy League school in 1976. “I feel very fortunate and very grateful that my life’s work has been acknowledged by the highest scientific body in the country.”

In conjunction with the award, Monti will deliver an honorary lecture in October at the institute’s campus in Bethesda, Md. He will use this opportunity to discuss the correlation between alcohol abuse and the spread of HIV, which he has researched extensively in the last decade. While there are biological reasons alcohol facilitates the spread of the virus, Monti said, there also are underlying psychosocial reasons.

“People under the influence are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior,” he said.

Monti joined the Brown faculty as an assistant professor of psychology in 1976. He was promoted to associate professor in 1981 and became a full professor in 1988. In 1991, he was named the associate director of the university’s Center for Alcohol & Addiction Studies, and was elevated to its director position nine years later. He was appointed as the Donald G. Millar distinguished professor in 2008.

At Brown, Monti heads a faculty that conducts research on the use and dependence of several drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, heroin and tobacco, along with studying prevention and recovery methods from those addictions. In particular, his research on the connection between alcohol and HIV is the subject of a grant project for which he is the principal investigator. Among other topics, the study looks at prominent alcohol abuse in underdeveloped countries that have been the hardest hit by AIDS, most notably Africa.

“There’s a lot of alcohol that’s fueling the HIV epidemic there,” he said.

Monti is particularly interested in the biological mechanisms that occur in addicts recovering from substance abuse. He said most people recuperate through a natural process, although there is a segment of addicts that has a more difficult time overcoming its demons. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two populations “is a fascinating question,” he said.

“We can learn a lot from the natural recovery process. It could be brought to bear on helping people who are having a hard time overcoming it,” Monti said.

Along with his work in Providence, Monti has taught psychology and addiction courses as an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Rhode Island. He’s also been a visiting lecturer at King’s College London in England and worked for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A member of the editorial board for several medical journals, Monti has published nearly 350 papers, chapters and monographs.

A native of Providence, Monti graduated from Providence College in 1969 with his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He earned his master’s degree in the same field from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 1971, three years before earning his doctorate from the University of Rhode Island. Monti was drawn to psychology because of the role addiction plays in society, particularly liquor.

“Alcohol is the world’s oldest and favorite drug,” he said. “For most people, it’s perfectly fine and not harmful, but for an increasing percentage of the population, it’s misused and gets people into trouble.”

Monti said his field has changed since he started studying the psychology behind addiction and recovery. For example, his team has started to focus on the younger generation, which led to his sixth published book, “Brief Interventions for Adolescent Alcohol and Substance Abuse.”

Monti and his wife, Sylvia, have lived in Jamestown since 1998. They previously lived in East Greenwich. They moved to town because of nearby friends, and they liked the sailing community. His favorite part of island living is “the serenity of it.”

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