Collaborations Across Disciplines Needed to Advance Prevention of Substance Abuse

BALTIMORE—Collaborations across disciplines are needed to advance the science and practice of substance abuse prevention, according to a research brief by an RTI International scientist.

"Despite the enormous amount of scholarly effort and economic investment directed toward a solution, we have yet to make significant advances in preventing substance abuse and addiction," said Diana Fishbein, Ph.D., senior fellow and director of the Transdisciplinary Science and Translational Prevention Program at RTI and the paper's author. "To move the field of drug abuse and addiction forward in significant ways will require fostering collaborations across disciplines, from the basic sciences to the social and prevention sciences."

Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually. This includes approximately $181 billion for illicit drugs, $193 billion for tobacco, and $235 billion for alcohol. In the United States, the root cause for 25 percent of the total deaths can be attributed to drug abuse.

The brief, published by RTI Press, highlights the relevance of promoting a transdisciplinary translational model (collaborating from basic to social sciences) as the foundation for the next generation of research on substance abuse, including tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and illegitimate use of prescription drugs.

According to Fishbein, tailored, targeted interventions will be most effective when prevention program curricula are matched to the individual's or group's social, environmental, psychological and biological attributes.

"Policy makers and practitioners lack the knowledge base and resources to design programs that can have meaningful impacts," Fishbein said. "Collaborations across disciplinary and organizational boundaries will lead to a greater understanding of how neurogenetic mechanisms such as cognitive deficits and psychological disturbances interact with environmental factors such as family dysfunction, violence and poverty."