Teaching Points– Addiction Research: History, Policy, and Practice

Editor’s Note: The Teaching Points series is a celebration of pedagogy on drugs.  In our second installment for the back-to-school season, we look at a rare specimen– a med-psy class that emphasizes history and its relevance for clinicians, researchers, and treatment providers.  Guest blogger Christine Grella is Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, and Associate Director of ISAP.  Her research focuses on the relationship of service delivery to addiction treatment outcomes, and she brings that “meta” perspective to graduate students and postdocs when she teaches “Addiction Research: History, Policy, and Practice.”

Addiction Research: History, Policy, and Practice
This course will take a big-picture view of research on substance abuse and its relationship to social interventions and policies that attempt to address problems related to substance use.

Teaching the Big Picture

The goal is for you to understand the history and evolution of the field of substance abuse research, so that you can situate your own research interests within this context, as well as understand the influences that continue to shape research priorities (and associated funding streams), social policies regarding substance abuse, and the organization and delivery of drug treatment within the context of the broader health care system. Moreover, because prior research on drug users, especially those who were incarcerated, was interwoven with the development of current policies regarding research with human subjects, we will examine these issues.  We will address questions such as:

  • What is the origin and evolution of research on drug use and addiction in the United States?
  • What is the relationship of the federal government to addiction research and how has this relationship changed over time?
  • What is the relationship of basic research on the effects of psychoactive substances, pharmacology and behavioral pharmacology, treatment-outcome and patient-oriented research, market-oriented research on drug development, and emerging new fields of addiction research (e.g., neurobiology, behavioral economics, translational research)?
  • In what ways does (or does not) research on drug abuse and its treatment inform social policies aimed at eradicating problems that stem from drug misuse?
  • What are implications of health care reform for the organization, financing, and delivery of drug treatment?
  • How do we determine the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment and what are current efforts to improve the quality and delivery of treatment services?

N.C. Campbell.  (2007). Discovering Addiction:  The Science and Politics of Substance Abuse Research.  Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press.

Report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Health Services Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2004). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Institute of Medicine. Committee on Crossing the Quality Chasm. (2005). Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions: Quality Chasm Series. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NIDA 35th anniversary papers in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 107(1), 80-118.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.  (2012).  Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap between Science and Practice.  New York:  CASAColumbia.

Course Schedule
Week 1: Introduction to addiction research and social policy in the U.S.:  History, policy, and practice
The field of addiction research has been described as having amnesia with regard to its history.  What can we learn from the history of addiction research about our current research priorities and practices?  What are the social policy precursors of our current efforts to regulate alcohol and drug use?  This class will present a “Brief History of Alcohol & Drug Use and Social Policy in the U.S.”

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