PIRE’s commitment to substance abuse prevention and treatment is the common thread that runs through most of our work. Since its inception more than 40 years ago, PIRE has been at the forefront of research and evaluation on an array of substance use issues including alcohol use and abuse, misuse of both illegal and prescription drugs, and tobacco use. Of particular interest are the social and health consequences associated with substance abuse and how they may be avoided. PIRE supports the substance abuse prevention and treatment initiatives of our federal, state, and local clients while helping to mitigate the impact and negative consequences of substance abuse on youth and adults in the United States and around the globe. Whether the focus is on evaluating programs to confirm the best community prevention initiatives, calculating healthcare and societal costs of substance abuse, investigating practical applications of technology to prevent driving under the influence, or any of the myriad research and evaluation projects we have conducted, PIRE remains committed to working to improve individual and public health, welfare, and safety. Read more about our substance abuse work below.
Alcohol use and abuse is a cross-cutting issue impacting the public health, criminal justice, and public safety arenas. A highly regulated and legal product, alcohol nonetheless exacts a huge toll on society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006—about $1.90 per drink. Alcohol consumption has been implicated in the development of diseases such as liver disease and a variety of cancers along with exacerbation of existing diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. Among women, excessive drinking may increase the risk of childbirth complications and increases the risk of having a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In addition, drinking to excess puts others at risk of injury and death through, for example, impaired driving, violence, and sexually transmitted diseases.
PIRE has been a national and international leader in efforts to understand the physical and behavioral effects of alcohol and prevent adverse consequences of alcohol use and abuse. Applying cutting-edge and integrated approaches such as geospatial mapping of alcohol-related crime, PIRE continues to break new ground in discovering how alcohol abuse contributes to deaths, injuries, disease, crime, and social disorder and what policies and programs can prevent alcohol-related problems. We also provide training and technical assistance to states and communities on alcohol-related issues.
PIRE’s research interests are wide ranging and include:
- Alcohol’s effects on driving performance
- Binge drinking among underage and young adult drinkers
- Correlations between alcohol consumption and criminal behavior
- Health disparities related to alcohol use and misuse
- Best practices in prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism
Since its founding in the 1970s, PIRE has been committed to studying drug use and developing policies and programs that prevent use and reduce drug-related problems. Throughout PIRE’s history, substance use and abuse research has been at the forefront of our work, and our scientists and experts have been influential in helping to shape U.S. drug policy.
PIRE scientists have focused their research efforts in several areas:
The use of illicit drugs while driving, including club drugs such as ecstasy, ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnol, can lead to traffic accidents. PIRE has helped train law enforcement officers to evaluate suspects believed to be under the influence of drugs, but who do not have a sufficiently high BAC to charge them with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Risk and protective factors for substance abuse
PIRE researchers have conducted multilevel and multimodal studies of drug use and prevention. We have done both primary and secondary research with a variety of populations including pregnant women, children and adolescents, high school and college students, young and emerging adults, club attendees, arrestees, and prison populations. Our goal is to identify the individual, group, and family-level factors that increase the risk of extra-medical and illicit drug use in these populations and clarify mechanisms by which drug use is maintained or suspended.
PIRE has contributed to the drug health effects literature in several areas. Some of the PIRE research on health effects reflects direct medical consequences (e.g., exposure to HIV and HCV viruses), while other projects have increased the evidence base on indirect impacts (e.g., behavioral health costs and consequences of dependent use of illicit substances).
As with all of PIRE’s work, much of our substance abuse research focuses on specific populations including youth and young adults, pregnant and postpartum women, and populations who experience health disparities.
Policy and enforcement
Among the law enforcement and interdiction initiatives researched by PIRE scientists is workplace drug testing. For example, in one study examining drug testing in the construction industry, we found that companies with drug-testing programs experienced a 51% reduction in injury incident rates within two years of implementation.
Prevention and treatment
In addition to prevention research focusing on demand, PIRE scientists study supply factors influencing drug use, an area sometimes overlooked in scientific research. We have conducted research examining drug price, retail availability, and social availability among other factors. PIRE’s treatment research has investigated treatment cost effectiveness, PTSD, community coalitions, and factors influencing success or failure of treatment modalities.
Although the U.S. smoking rate is half what it was when the first Surgeon General’s report was released in 1964, smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of mortality, causing about one of every five deaths in the United States. PIRE researchers have been at the forefront of tobacco-related research, focusing both on the physical—health effects, addiction, prevention, and cessation—and the behavioral—advertising and marketing, tobacco control policy—aspects of the issue.
Not only does PIRE conduct primary tobacco research, it has also launched valuable tools to help scientists, policymakers, and others in their research and decision-making. Developed at PIRE, the simulation model SimSmoke shows how policies such as tax changes, clean air legislation, and media campaigns affect smoking rates and smoking-attributable deaths.
PIRE continues to study tobacco issues, including grants to examine young African Americans’ perceptions of efforts to make smoking socially unacceptable and to evaluate a citywide ordinance banning smoking in multiunit housing.