Suzette M. Evans, Ph.D.

Dr. Suzette M. Evans is a Professor of Clinical Neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and a Research Scientist at New York State Psychiatric Institute. She received her undergraduate training Syracuse University (1981) and a doctorate from The University of Chicago (1987). Following completion of a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Evans worked at the Addiction Research Center of the National Institute on Drug Abuse until 1992. In 1992, Dr. Evans joined the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was a founding member of the Division on Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Evans has a long-standing interest in assessing the behavioral effects of anxiolytics, including benzodiazepines and alcohol. Her second area of interest has focused on the stimulants, including the ubiquitous drug caffeine, cocaine and amphetamine. Over the past thirteen years she has focused her major research interests on women and the menstrual cycle. Her expertise in this area has been woven into other projects and grants within the Department.


Current Research Activities:

Vulnerability to Drug Abuse in Women
Dr. Evans' research in this area is unique in that she has approached the issue by focusing on different subpopulations of nondrug abusing women who may be at increased risk. Her subgroups of women have included women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, women with paternal histories of alcoholism, and women who are social drinkers. She uses the most rigorous diagnostic standards to date that involve an extensive interview with the participants and corroborative interviews with first-degree relatives. Dr. Evans recently completed a series of studies focusing on several behavioral and electrophysiological markers that may be associated with increased risk for drug or alcohol abuse in women. In collaboration with Dr. Bruder in Biopsychology, she assessed changes across the menstrual cycle in various groups of women. To assess the role of sex differences, she conducted a parallel study in males with and without a family history of alcoholism. In 2005 her grant was refunded and her new focus is on stress response and the effects of alcohol and d-amphetamine on measures of impulsivity in various groups of women, including women with childhood sexual abuse and women with bulimia nervosa. She is collaborating with Dr. Walsh, Director of the Eating Disorder Unit on this project and is also collaborating with Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek, at Rockefeller University, to assess genetic associations in these women.

Laboratory Studies Assessing Sex Differences in Response to Cocaine.
Although laboratory data in humans is limited, sex differences in response to cocaine administration clearly exist. Dr. Evans has been conducting studies to determine whether the response to cocaine differs as a function of menstrual cycle phase. One study showed that several positive subjective effects of cocaine were increased more in the follicular phase than in the luteal phase. We recently completed a study assessing the effects of exogenously administered progesterone on the response to cocaine in both women and men. These studies will provide data relevant to the behavioral and neurochemical mechanisms underlying the binge cycle of cocaine use, suggesting potential venues of further exploration with respect to treatment of male and female cocaine abusers. Dr. Evans and Dr. Reed have a new grant to assess the role of cocaine on impulsivity and stress in women and men cocaine abusers.

Treatment Study
As a follow-up to her laboratory research with progesterone, Dr. Evans is currently conducting a pilot treatment study in cocaine-dependent women to test the clinical efficacy of progesterone.

Thus, Dr. Evans’ research has four major foci: 1) vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse in various subgroups of women; 2) the role of estradiol and progesterone in modulating changes in drug effects in women; 3) sex differences on response to drugs of abuse; and investigating stress and impulsivity.

Training Opportunities:

Dr. Evans is a faculty advisor on Dr. Kleber’s NIDA-funded Substance Abuse Postdoctoral Fellowship grant. She provides methodological training in the design and analysis of research protocols, teaching the importance of solid methodological design and clear understanding of the data analysis issues at the early stages in the design process. In addition to supervising several research fellows in the Fellowship program, she has mentored and supervised Master's level clinicians on their independent thesis projects. Lastly, Dr. Evans is the Co-Principal Investigator of the Division’s Medications Development Center Grant. One of her major roles in the Center is to oversee the pilot studies program that provides funding for small research projects submitted by junior faculty and research fellows. This has been an ideal mechanism for young investigators to collect pilot data and eventually secure independent research funding.

Recent Publications