Illegal drugs contribute to death, disease and social disorder. Since its inception, PIRE has been committed to studying drug use and developing policies and programs that prevent use and reduce drug-related problems. PIRE research and other projects shed light on drug use and prevention among diverse populations.


Driving Impairment

The use of illicit drugs can lead to problems associated with use, including driving while impaired.  Driving while impaired leads to an increased risk of traffic crashes.  PIRE research has shown how law enforcement agencies can detect illicit drug use among drivers.

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Drug Use

Drug use and associated consequences persist as a major public health problem.  PIRE researchers have a broad range of funded research projects and scientific investigators examining the causes, correlates and consequences of drug involvement.

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Health Effects

Drugs can have a wide variety of effects on biological systems.  There are drug effects that restore proper functioning of vital systems, and of course there are drug effects that can be initially very exciting but ultimately unpleasant and disruptive.  Making good use of drug substances in health is a matter of selection, dosing and homeostatic balance.  Psychoactive drugs such as heroin, cocaine, alcohol and others also bring the possibility of dependence or addiction. Dependent use of drugs is a problem for an individual's health and can also  be a problem for the healthful functioning of the user's family.  Drug use during pregnancy can result in harm to a fetus, and a nursing mother's use of drugs may also risk harm to an infant.

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Illegal Drugs

PIRE researchers have done both primary and secondary research with a variety of populations -- arrestees, household members, ethnic groups, high school students, and club rave attendees -- for the purpose of identifying the prevalence of use and abuse of marijuana, methamphetamine and "club drugs," such as ecstasy, Ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnol.  Methamphetamine use, which was originally a West Coast phenomenon, has now spread throughout the United States to rural and urban areas. 

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Inhalants

A number of legal and useful substances (such as gasoline or glues) are inhaled or otherwise abused as drugs to achieve intoxication.  Inhaling organic solvents can cause death or serious damage to the brain, liver and central nervous system.

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Policy and Enforcement

A variety of law enforcement and interdiction initiatives have been implemented that attempt to reduce illicit drug use.  One such policy is drug testing.  In one study conducted by a PIRE researcher (citation below), the efficacy of workplace drug-testing programs in reducing injury incident rates and workers' compensation experience-rating modification factors (MODs) within the construction industry was examined. Analyses indicated that companies with drug-testing programs experienced a 51% reduction in incident rates within two years of implementation. Furthermore, companies that drug test their employees experienced a significant reduction in their MODs. 

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Prevention

The primary purpose of illicit drug prevention is to reduce substance use and the problems associated with substance use. A plethora of health, social, and economic problems result from illicit drug use. Examples of such problems include traffic crashes caused by alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers, violence stimulated by either the victim or perpetrator, or lung cancer and other health problems associated with long term exposure to tobacco smoke.

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Treatment

Researchers at PIRE have conducted a number of studies investigating drug treatment.  This includes research on treatment cost-effectiveness, childhood trauma, PTSD, screening; studies on grade school and collegiate drug use, partner violence, forensic populations, and community coalitions.  In addition to previous studies conducted by PIRE staff, there are a number of ongoing studies funded by NIDA and SAMHSA.

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