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2016-2020 NIDA Strategic Plan

Objective 2.1: Determine the mechanisms that underlie individual risk and resilience for addiction and common comorbidities

To inform the development and implementation of effective prevention interventions for SUDs, it is important to better understand the mechanisms through which interventions work and for whom they are most effective. Determining the mechanistic effects that mediate effective interventions will provide an evidence base to guide efforts to refine and improve program components. Building this evidence base will require research on the individual predictors of intervention success and on the malleable mediators of intervention effects, as well as research to clarify which preventive components best predict intervention-related outcomes and for whom. Further research is needed to refine our understanding of modifiable risk and protective factors associated with life transitions and developmental periods to enhance the power of interventions. In addition, a greater understanding of the impact of preventive interventions on neurobiology is needed in order to identify the critical windows across the lifespan during which interventions may produce the greatest impact for specific populations.

This objective will build upon basic research to help determine the types of interventions that are most likely to be effective for specific individuals or subpopulations given underlying biological mechanisms of action.


  • Establish the mechanisms through which preventive interventions effectively influence the biological, behavioral, and social mediators of risk for SUDs
  • Identify mediators of the effectiveness of prevention interventions for different populations and developmental stages
  • Explore the common underlying mechanisms that lead to multiple problem behaviors including substance abuse