In the past 15 years, a wealth of research has highlighted new and successful ways to treat people with substance abuse problems. Sometimes, though, this information remains in academic settings and doesn't make it into the field; conversely, practitioners' hands-on expertise may fail to travel back to and inform academia.
An APA Annual Convention continuing-education session aims to cross this divide. "New substance abuse treatment strategies: latest research from NIDA and CSAT," will be held Sunday, Aug. 26, from 9 to 10:50 a.m.
Officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) will share details about two national efforts to combat substance abuse--one that's testing promising treatment strategies and the other disseminating state-of-the-art information to those in the field.
Research in real-life settings
In NIDA's portion of the session, physiologist Betty Tai, PhD, who directs NIDA's Clinical Trials Network (CTN, see page 28), will describe this comprehensive national effort to make substance abuse research more relevant.
The program, the largest of its kind by NIDA to date, is unique for at least three reasons, she says: its large size, the complexity of its infrastructure and its objective of doing research in real-world settings.
"A lot of practitioners are concerned that treatments are irrelevant and impractical because they've been developed in university settings," Tai says. "This effort will allow researchers to partner with practitioners and do randomized-control clinical research directly in real-life settings. Once a treatment has shown effectiveness in such settings, it should have more direct impact on practice and can be moved quickly for adoption into treatment programs."
The network thus far includes 14 "nodes" or settings across the country that combine a university-based research and training center and its affiliated local community treatment programs. A research site at Yale University headed by psychologist Kathleen Carroll, PhD, for example, is connected to several local community treatment programs run by the managed-care organization Advanced Behavioral Health Inc. Another site in Los Angeles links investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles, with practitioners at a number of centers confronting an upsurge in methamphetamine use, now a primary drug of abuse on the West Coast.
Eventually, says Tai, NIDA hopes to fund 20 to 30 of these sites across the country.
Getting research into practitioners' hands
CSAT Director H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, will speak on the center's Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs), a nationwide, multidisciplinary network that has disseminated the findings of addictions experts since 1993.
"There's no way to meet the problem of substance abuse without the effective training of professionals in the trenches," says psychologist Arthur MacNeill Horton Jr., EdD, ABPP, ABPN, who directs CSAT's Office of Evaluation, Scientific Analysis and Synthesis. "These centers take research findings showing that a particular treatment works for a particular patient, and translate that information into effective curricula that meet professional standards and represent the latest in treatment research."
The centers, made up of 13 regional centers and a national office, create a range of higher education programs from state-of-the-art information, including continuing-education programs and specialty course work, Horton says. The centers also set educational standards in the field, facilitate crossdisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, and work to recruit new professionals into the substance abuse field, he says.
One of the centers' resources is a Web site (www.nattc.org) crammed with useful information for practitioners. There, psychologists can find online courses, listservs and a wide range of relevant publications to enhance their practices on the site.
"The ATTCs provide psychologists with information about substance abuse in a learning style that's geared for the Internet age," Horton says.Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.