Another main element of NIDA’s mission is ensuring the effective translation, implementation, and dissemination of scientific research findings to improve the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders and enhance public awareness of addiction as a brain disorder. Addiction science can only improve public health if research findings effectively reach the people who can benefit from them and if the public’s understanding of drug abuse is changed by new knowledge. One of NIDA’s central roles is to be the trusted source of data related to drug use and addiction and to ensure that new findings are rapidly and effectively disseminated to the field and to the wider public.
A crucial aspect of this mandate is to promote wider recognition of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. Addiction is a disorder that powerfully compromises executive function circuits that mediate self-control and decision-making; failure to understand this often results in stigma against people with substance use disorders (SUDs). This stigma has contributed to the slow adoption of effective treatments for addiction, including medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorders, such as methadone and buprenorphine.125 It has also impeded implementation of evidence-based harm reduction approaches such as needle exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.126 Effective dissemination of research findings can facilitate evidence-based decision-making and drive improvements in public health.
NIDA’s communication efforts are targeted to a broad range of stakeholders, including health care providers, teens, parents, educators, community organizations, policymakers, and others. Our NIDAMED initiative and Blending Initiative develop educational materials that include continuing medical education courses to train health care providers on evidence-based practices for screening individuals for risky substance use, prescribing for pain, and treating adolescents with SUDs.
NIDA strives to make addiction research more accessible to people in the community by strategically leveraging social media, blogs, and the news media to promote new findings, inform the public about emerging drug trends, and educate the community on addiction science. NIDA also engages in various forms of outreach targeted to adolescents, including our popular teen-oriented Drugs and Health Blog, our annual National Drug and Alcohol Facts WeekSM events that engage participating schools across the country, and Drugs & Alcohol Chat Day, in which NIDA scientists answer questions from middle- and high-school students in an all-day, real-time virtual chat.
While adolescents are at the greatest risk for drug use, it can be difficult to reach this audience directly; therefore, NIDA works to educate various teen influencers including parents, teachers, and the media. NIDA produces materials aimed at helping parents and teachers communicate with children and teens about drugs, such as web-based FAQs and our Family Checkup resource.
- Use evidence-based communication strategies to disseminate relevant findings from scientific research to all stakeholders
- Provide clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date scientific information to guide policymaking related to drug use and related disorders