Substance-abuse researcher named president-elect of psychopathological association

Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named president-elect of the American Psychopathological Association (APPA). She will serve as its president in 2010, the organization’s centennial year.

Linda Cottler
Linda Cottler

Cottler directs the Epidemiology and Prevention Research Group at the School of Medicine. In St. Louis, other American cities and several locations in Asia, she has investigated factors involved in drug use and developed profiles of people at risk of becoming substance abusers and engaging in high-risk sexual activity. Those who trade drugs for sex, have more than one partner or use dirty needles are at much greater risk for HIV and STD exposure than the general population.

Cottler’s group has worked in India with the wives of men who engage in high-risk substance abuse and sex behaviors, including sex with prostitutes. Most studies tend to target women who are commercial sex workers, but the focus of this work has been on women who are at risk because their husbands engage in risky behavior.

Her research team also has designed and studied programs in which part of the treatment for substance abuse is delivered by the abuser’s peers. Those studies have found peer educators can be more effective than standard treatment programs in many cases.

A particular emphasis of her work has involved the study of club drugs — Ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine and others — used by young people both in the United States and Taiwan. She also is studying the abuse of prescription drugs in St. Louis and Thailand. In addition, she was involved in some of the first systematic studies of gambling and its effects.

Cottler has been a leader in the APPA since being elected as the organization’s treasurer in 1997. When she assumes duties as president, she will be the 10th female president in the organization’s 100-year history.

“It’s quite an honor and a responsibility,” she says. “As president, I’ll be responsible for choosing the theme of our annual meeting and have the privilege of celebrating 100 years of APPA history. I’m very much looking forward to that.”

Her election puts Cottler in the company of several former APPA presidents from Washington University’s Department of Psychiatry, including Samuel B. Guze, M.D. (1982), Lee N. Robins, Ph.D. (1988), C. Robert Cloninger, M.D. (1993) and Charles Zorumski, M.D. (2003).

Cottler is an author of more than 150 scientific papers and book chapters. She serves on many grant review committees and editorial boards, and is a past president of the Academic Women’s Network at the School of Medicine. She began working at the University in 1980 as a project coordinator for Robins, professor emeritus of sociology in psychiatry, on the landmark Epidemiological Catchment Area (ECA) study, which was the largest survey of the prevalence of mental illness in the general population. She joined the psychiatry faculty in 1988 after completing her doctorate in sociology at Washington University.

Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.