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Gary A. Zarkin

Distinguished Fellow, Behavioral Health


PhD, Economics, University of Chicago

MA, Economics, University of Chicago

BA, Economics, University of Washington

Gary A. Zarkin, PhD, is a Distinguished Fellow at RTI, publishing extensively on the cost, cost-effectiveness, and benefit-cost of substance use interventions. Dr. Zarkin was a contributing author on Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.

He is currently one of the multiple principal investigators on RTI’s Data Coordinating Center for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded HEALing Communities Study that is estimating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of expanding naloxone distribution and medication-based treatment in select communities hit hard by the opioid crisis. He is also a co-investigator on a newly-awarded NIDA grant that will develop quality measures for opioid treatment programs and test approaches to implementing the measures to improve opioid use disorder treatment engagement and outcomes.

From 2014 to 2018, he was the Project Director for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Analytic Center/Analytic Support Center contract. In addition, Dr. Zarkin was the principal investigator on a multi-site National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) grant estimating the cost and cost-effectiveness of nine alternative medication and behavioral alcohol treatments in the Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions for Alcoholism (COMBINE) study.

Before joining RTI, Dr. Zarkin was a faculty member at Duke University, Department of Economics. Dr. Zarkin resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When he’s not working, Dr. Zarkin enjoys playing tennis.

Get to Know Dr. Zarkin

Dr. Zarkin shared what drew him to the field of health economics and substance use.

When I arrived at RTI in 1989 after working on the faculty of Duke University, the federal government was spending a lot of money supporting substance use research. They supported national surveillance surveys like the National Study on Drug Use and Heath (NSDUH), that RTI has conducted since 1988, and studies of the effect of drug treatment. I was trained as a labor economist and had not done any work in the substance use area prior to coming to RTI. In conjunction with several of my RTI colleagues, we developed a methodology to estimate the cost of drug treatment with an initial focus on costing methadone treatment. At that time, there was essentially no one else looking at the cost of drug treatment. Our early work put us in the forefront of cost estimation. We built on our early work and went on to develop an activity-based cost estimation approach that we are still using to estimate the cost of substance use treatment and substance use interventions more generally.

Get in Touch

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