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Friends of NIDA Hold Congressional Briefing on Drug Abuse Treatment
By Anne Bettesworth
On February 22, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) held its seventh in a series of educational briefings on Capitol Hill. Organized by APA Science Policy staff, the briefing, titled "Drug Abuse Treatment: The Blending of Research and Practice," drew an audience of over 100, including staff from a total of 50 different House and Senate offices, and was co-sponsored by 18 scientific and professional organizations.
The event focused on the issue of bridging the divide between scientific findings and their implementation and how to quicken the pace of real-world application of science-based research results. In order to accomplish this, the NIDA Research and Practice Blending Initiative has been developed, which is an innovative effort to translate research to practice and to incorporate feedback from multiple stakeholders to make the best treatments available to those who need them.Through the Blending Initiative, NIDA is able to directly address the challenge of connecting the science of drug abuse and addiction to real life practice.
The distinguished panel of speakers began with a presentation from Timothy Condon, Deputy Director of NIDA, who provided an overview of the Institute's work in this crucial area. In outlining the barriers to reaping benefits from scientific knowledge, Condon explained that, "According to a 1998 Institute of Medicine report, a 17-year gap exists between the publication of research results and its impact on treatment delivery." Part of what NIDA is doing to bridge this gap, he said, is implementing the Clinical Trials Network (CTN). Condon described the mission of the CTN as "conducting multi-site clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of drug abuse treatment interventions in diverse community-based treatment settings and diverse patient populations and transferring research results to treatment programs, clinicians, and their patients to improve the quality of drug abuse treatment throughout the nation."
The next presentation was by Gregory Brigham, who shared his experiences as a member of a Blending Team, which provides the tools necessary to access and adopt NIDA research protocols. Brigham is the Chief Research Officer at Maryhaven, a Community Treatment Program (CTP) in Columbus, Ohio, and a Research Scientist in the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati. He mentioned that Maryhaven joined the NIDA CTN in 2000 as a member of the Ohio Valley Node and that since then they have developed proficiencies in conducting clinical trials, as well as developing productive bi-directional collaborations within the CTN and in the broader field of addiction researchers. After noting that patient outcomes have improved due to adoption of science based practices, Brigham concluded by saying "we are off to a good start, but ongoing support is critical."
Last, Dennis McCarty, a professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University, gave a presentation discussing his work as Principal Investigator for the Oregon Node of the CTN. By conducting randomized clinical trials of emerging pharmacological and behavioral therapies, he and his colleagues have found that combinations of buprenorphine and naloxone can be used safely in community treatment settings, where it appears especially effective in patients dependent on both alcohol and opiates. Trials of behavioral therapies likewise showed positive results. Studies of motivational interviewing and motivational incentive therapies improved retention in treatment, and the former reduced cocaine use in patients being treated with methadone. McCarty also noted benefits that participating treatment centers receive, some of which include exposure to emerging therapies, staff training, and participation in research.
We are indebted to Representatives Kennedy and Ramstad for their leadership of the House Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and to their dedicated staff, Rachael Bornstein and Andrew McKechnie, for their assistance with event logistics. The Friends of NIDA will continue with its educational briefing series on Capitol Hill by hosting another event in late spring or early summer focused on co-morbidity.