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Research and Studies

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a government agency of the United States which funds research, analyzes data and provides information to educators, medical professionals and scientists in an effort to combat the crippling effects of drug abuse and addiction on the human condition.  According to their statistics, the abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco results in over 500,000 deaths in America each year.

In order to better understand how drugs affect human beings and how to better treat the disease of addiction, clinical trials and socioeconomic studies are ongoing.  These studies can help to determine:

  • Whether specific medications might help with withdrawal symptoms
  • Whether medications exist to curb cravings for specific drugs
  • Whether simultaneous treatments for specific addictions are beneficial or detrimental
  • Whether motivational enhancement therapy can help pregnant drug users remain in treatment

Currently, the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network lists four important studies that are enrolling participants.

  1. The START Follow-up Study
    A few years ago, a study was conducted to examine the use of Suboxone rather than methadone for the treatment of heroin addiction.  This follow-up study will look at the long-term effects of the new medication.  The individuals conducting the study will examine the overall outcomes of the participants in the first study, as well as at any other factors in the lives of the individuals treated as they relate to current levels of recovery.
  2. Cocaine Use Reduction with Buprenorphine (CURB)
    In many cases, an individual will be addicted to more than one substance.  While there may be an appropriate medication for treatment of one addiction, there may be some confusion as to whether certain medications will work when combined with medications to treat a second addiction.  This study will look at the safety issues concerning giving a drug addict naltrexone for opiate addiction and buprenorphine for cocaine addiction.  The study will also investigate whether the combination of the drugs is, in any way, effective.
  3. Screening, Motivational Assessment, Referral, and Treatment in Emergency Departments (SMART-ED)
    One of the first lines of defense we have in the “war on drugs” consists of the emergency medical personnel that staff our nation’s emergency hospitals.  For years, doctors have been using a brief intervention technique with individuals who have presented with illness or injury caused by alcohol use and abuse.  This study will take the process one step furtherby applying the lessons learned in the alcohol interventions for individuals who present in trauma centers and emergency rooms because of drug use.The process will involve three types of interaction:

    • A minimal screening
    • A screening, an assessment and a referral for treatment if needed
    • A screening, an assessment and referral for treatment, as well as a brief intervention that includes a couple of follow-up telephone calls to booster the patient into seeking treatment

    Each patient will be randomly selected for the type of involvement their medical provider will have in their case.  The researchers are looking for correlations between the levels of care received in an emergency situation with the number of days the individual refrains from drug use after the contact.  They will also look to evaluate the percentage of participants who actually sought treatment and whether those who did not seek treatment curbed the amount of drugs to which they exposed themselves.

  4. Stimulant Reduction Intervention using Dosed Exercise (STRIDE)
    Many rehab treatment centers encourage, or even require, their residents and outpatients to engage in exercise.  It is common knowledge that exercise helps to maintain health, increases energy and releases endorphins in the brain.  This study will look into whether exercise is more than a way to keep the addict’s mind off their withdrawal symptoms.  The researchers conducting this study want to know whether exercise is actually a treatment for addiction.  They believe that regular exercise will not only curb cravings and prevent recovering addicts from relapsing, but that it will benefit issues such as reduced cognitive function, mood issues and sleep disorders in recovering addicts, as well.


Ongoing Studies and Research

In addition to the studies listed above, which are recruiting participants for future research, there are several interesting research models taking place currently or completed in the past few years.

One of the most prolific drug abuse problems among people of all age groups currently is the addiction to prescription pain medications known as analgesics.  Young people are procuring these powerful opiates from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and adults have been known to visit several doctors in a short period of time to obtain more than one “legal” prescription to satisfy their addiction cravings.

The Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study (POATS) taking place at Mclean Hospital in partnership with the University of California at Los Angeles is studying the treatment outcomes for individuals addicted to prescription pain medication based upon two major factors:

  • Were the patients treated with buprenorphine/naloxone exclusively?
  • Were the patients treated with medication and individual drug counseling?

The study will ultimately take up to 3.5 years to complete based upon current plans.  After an initial four-week period where the drug use is tapered off and a 12-week stabilization period, the participants will receive long-term follow-up assessments at 1.5 years, 1.5 years, and finally at the 3.5-year mark.

There are over 600 individuals enrolled in the study.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy to Improve Treatment Utilization and Outcome in Pregnant Substance Users

According to the researchers for this study, roughly five percent of pregnant women use drugs.  Twenty-two percent of these women also admitted to using alcohol and nicotine during their pregnancy.  Unfortunately, many of these women find it difficult to remain in treatment, or perhaps the treatment programs find it difficult to convince them to stay in treatment.

The individuals conducting this study at the University of Cincinnati were interested in the effects of enhanced motivational techniques to keep pregnant women in treatment.  The program began in 2003 and was completed in 2006. It studied 200 women over the course of their pregnancies.  These women had to meet specific criteria, such as:

  • Having not yet entered the final 10 weeks of pregnancy
  • Being eligible for outpatient treatment after initial detox
  • Not being a risk to themselves or others
  • Not having any significant pending criminal charges
  • Not having attended any drug treatment within the month prior to the study

Each mother-to-be also had to be at least 18 years of age.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy is a process through which a counselor leads the recovering addict through a series of visits, or sessions, where they develop a significant rapport with each other.  The addict is motivated to find her own reasons to remain sober, rather than being told why she should not abuse drugs.  The group of women were randomly placed into one of the two types of therapy and treated for a specific amount of time.

As of April 2010, the researchers were still following the study and evaluating the outcomes of their collected data.

Help for Heroin-Addicted Adolescents and Young Adults

For a long time, heroin was a drug that was limited to the adult population.  It was difficult to obtain and rather expensive. In recent years, the drug has become more common and less expensive, leading to higher abuse rates by young people — even teens still in high school.

Generally, the treatment for heroin abuse in young adults and teens consisted of detoxification followed by counseling, while adults were treated with medications.  Many care providers were unwilling to use the medications on young people for various reasons, specifically because the treatments are most often long-term maintenance programs.

A particular study subjected a sampling of young adults to a limited program of buprenorphine or naloxone for a period of 12 weeks.  The first nine weeks of the program included the drug medication treatments, while the final three weeks weaned the young people off the medication.  A second control group was treated in the traditional manner.; however, both groups received counseling for the entire three months.

How Drug Use and Stress Are Affected by Neighborhood Surroundings

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is currently enrolling a number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 years to take part in a study that investigates how our environment affects drug use and stress levels.  They are looking for both men and women who are physically dependent upon heroin or other opiates, but otherwise in good health.  The participants should be currently seeking treatment and be available daily for a period of five months.  This study is taking place at The Archway Clinic on the Bayview campus of John Hopkins University.

Research Leads to Change

Continuing research is needed to fully understand the intricacies of drug addiction.  In many ways, drug addiction and alcohol addiction are still mysteries.  Researchers and scientists know that drug addiction changes the way the brain works, but they do not yet know how or why.  The more research that is conducted, the closer our society can come to understanding addiction and finding a cure or more effective prevention methods.

For more information on addiction treatment and ongoing research in the field, contact us at the number listed above. Our trained counselors are on hand and ready to answer any questions you may have.

Family member support is extremely important in the recovery process of a loved one with an addiction or mental illness. As a caring member of the family, your roll can help make a difference and increase the success rate of a full recovery. While it might not be you who is struggling with a substance abuse issue, if someone in your family is, you should do your best to show your love and support since they might not have anyone else they can turn to for help.

The price tag for rehabilitation and treatment can be a hefty one that can potentially put a strain on you or your family's finances. With that said, don't let the cost or rehab keep you from getting someone the help they need. There are numerous options that can make paying for it manageable. Insurance and payment plans are always a good option and also searching for affordable services that don't cost the same as a luxury facility is a smart idea. In the end though, can you really put a price on the health and wellness of someone you care about?

Once the main recovery program is complete and you or your loved one return to daily life, now comes a great challenge; that is, the challenge to stay clean and avoid relapse. Relapse can occur at any time for any number of reasons but by being prepared and staying vigil, you can succeed and go on to live a long and fruitful life.

Get the latest addiction statistics and find out about what research is being conducted right now. By having the facts, you can empower yourself with the knowledge you might need to get someone into rehab, stop someone from using in the first place and avoid having them becoming another statistic.

The treatment industry is a vast one with many branches of care. This means there are numerous careers and jobs that are in need of being filled. What better way to show you appreciation for the treatment process than to go on to help others in need. Recovering addicts make great drug counselors or care providers because only they truly now what kind of struggle it is to overcome an addiction. Find out if a career in the treatment industry is right for you.

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