New Research Agenda Outlined for Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention

Posted on October 19th, 2009

Scientists with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) newly founded Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) presented steps that the government can take to help curb drug and alcohol abuse and smoking, also reducing the amount of money spent on the consequences of these behaviors, which is currently in the billions. Substance abuse accounts for one in 14 hospital admissions.

David Colby, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Evaluation at RWJF, said that the foundation has presented research that has been important in policy decisions on reducing the harm caused by substance abuse.

Dennis McCarty, PhD, of the Oregon Health and Science University, said that 23 million Americans show signs of substance use, dependence, or abuse, but only 4 millions people receive treatment. He added that research is needed to explore measures that could help close the gap between people who need treatment and those who receive it, and that policymakers need more data on the economic benefits of addiction treatment.

Because of the prevalence of substance abuse in adolescents, Marjorie Gutman, Ph.D., co-director of SAPRP, said that more school-based prevention and intervention programs are needed. Drug testing students isn’t a high priority among most school districts, and there is little evidence showing that drug testing is a deterrent.

New research also shows a rise in opiate prescription medication abuse, including emergency room admissions and overdose deaths, and that most of the drugs are obtained from a doctor, friend, or relative.

There is also evidence that raising alcohol taxes would result in a 19 percent reduction in heavy drinking among youths and a 6 percent reduction in risky drinking; modifying licensing and hours of service at alcohol-selling establishments can also significantly reduce alcohol-related problems.

Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, noted that cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease, as well as a major reason for high costs of health care. He added that most of the reductions in cancer deaths have been due to efforts to help smokers quit. Research has also shown that higher pricing for tobacco and banning smoking in the workplace and other establishments can help reduce smoking rates.

Cummings pointed out that a new law placing tobacco under control of the FDA may help the public better understand the dangers of smoking and using other tobacco products.

Source: Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, Prabhu Ponkshe, Nation’s Leading Experts on Substance Abuse Outline New Research Agenda, October 2, 2009

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