After 20 continuous years conducting research in the field of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence, Brazil’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Research (CPAD) is preparing for its next era. On July 2nd, professionals from Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay gathered at a symposium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to discuss research priorities and to celebrate CPAD's success.
The Center was created by its current director, Flavio Pechansky, M.D., Ph.D.; Lisia Von Diemen, M.D., Ph.D.; and Felix Kessler, Ph.D. The three are professors in the Department of Psychiatry at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). Dr. Pechansky was a 1993–1994 NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellow, and Dr. Kessler received a 2013 NIDA Distinguished International Scientist Collaboration Award. Originally, CPAD was one of the five research offices of the University of Delaware’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies, under the guidance of the late NIDA grantee, James A. Inciardi, Ph.D. Since 2009, CPAD has been an independent center housed in Hospital de Clinicas of Porto Alegre, a large teaching hospital affiliated with UFRGS.
CPAD has made a substantial contribution to knowledge and understanding of Brazil’s large drug and alcohol abuse problem, particularly with regard to publications, staff training, and collaborative work with other research centers. CPAD has competitively obtained more than $15 million in research funding, mostly from NIDA, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Brazil’s National Research Council, and the Brazilian National Secretariat for Drug and Alcohol Policies, through a recently founded Collaborative Center. CPAD has maintained connections with many international collaborators from the universities of Kentucky and Pennsylvania, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, McGill University, and Université de Sherbrooke.
CPAD’s strong trajectory is also reflected in its numbers: CPAD staff members have published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 85 book chapters, and 12 books. They have made about 500 presentations in symposia and conferences in Australia, Brazil, Europe, North America, and South America. CPAD also has been a steady hub for professional training: more than 7,000 professionals were directly trained by its staff, ranging from highway patrol officers to health professionals, safety enforcement professionals, and undergraduate and postgraduate students in psychology, psychiatry, nursing, social work, pharmacy, engineering, and biomedicine.
CPAD focuses on the epidemiology of risk and protective factors for drug users; the relationship between alcohol, drugs, and driving; psychiatric comorbidity; brain damage; and promising therapeutic approaches for drug users.
According to Dr. Pechansky, "Over the course of our history, we have been successful in developing and sustaining a research structure while surfing the ups and downs of national and international research funding during these 20 years. The challenge is to expand the Center’s activities and direct them toward translational research, with more "hands-on" projects focused on CPAD's target areas."