Project SACRED Connections (COMPLETED)

Brief Intervention for Substance Using Native Youth (SACRED Connections) was a 5-year R01 research grant funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA; 5R01DA029779-05).  SACRED Connections (Self-Awareness Creates Responsible Empowered Decisions) was devoted to reducing substance use problems among Native American teens in rural communities in the Midwestern United States. Under the guidance of Chief Jim Henson and a local Community Advisory Board, the SACRED Connections team culturally adapted and evaluated an individual brief motivational interviewing (MI) intervention specifically designed for reducing substance use problems among Native American adolescents. During the course of the project, 405 adolescent participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) brief advice and a personalized feedback report alone, (2) brief advice, a personalized feedback report, and motivational interviewing or (3) brief advice, a personalized feedback report, motivational interviewing, and a 6-months post-intervention booster session. Participants are assessed immediately before the intervention and at 3-month intervals over the course of a year. Preliminary findings indicated that Native-Reliance was found to be a predictor of alcohol and marijuana use among Native American youth and that the SACRED Connections MI intervention condition reported greater reductions in marijuana use at 3 months post intervention as compared to the non-MI conditions.

Co-Principal Investigators: Eric Wagner, Ph.D. & John Lowe, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, (Florida State University)

Co-Investigators: Michelle Hospital, Ph.D. & Staci Leon Morris, Psy.D.

Project Coordinator: Cheryl Riggs, M.S.

News Article:


  • Morris. S. L. Hospital, M.M., Wagner, E.F., Lowe, J., Thompson, M., Clarke, R., & Riggs, C. (2021) SACRED Connections: A university-tribal clinical research partnership for school-based screening and brief intervention for substance use problems among Native American Youth. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 30(1-2), 149-162.
  • Hospital, M.M., Wagner, E.F., Lowe, J., Morris, S.L., Riggs, C., Thompson, M., & Sawant, M. (2017, November). SACRED Connections: A NIDA-funded RCT with Native American youth.   Poster Presentation at the RCMI Translational Science 2017 Conference, Washington, D.C.
  • Morris, S.L., Hospital, M.M., Wagner, E.F., Lowe, J. Thompson, M., Clarke, R., & Riggs, C. (Abstract accepted for podium presentation). SACRED Connections – Dissemination & implementation of a substance use intervention with Native American youth via a university-tribal research partnership. 11th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health: Scaling up Effective Health and Healthcare: Advancing the Research Agenda and Necessary Infrastructure. Washington, D.C.
  • Thompson, M.G. & Lowe, J. (2018, March). SACRED CONNECTIONS – A substance abuse intervention with Native American Youth: Lessons and results from a NIDA-funded RCT. Oral presentation at the 31st Annual Research & Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health, Tampa, FL.
  • Wagner, E.F., Lowe, J., Hospital, M.M., Morris, S.L., Riggs, C, Sawant, M. (In preparation). Examining the role of native reliance as a protective factor among substance using adolescent Native Americans

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