Conduct research that focuses on implementable, sustainable solutions to address high-priority substance use issues.
Scientific research should be informed by ongoing public health needs. This includes research on the basic genetic and epigenetic contributors to substance use disorders and the environmental and social factors that influence risk; basic neuroscience research on substance use-related effects and brain recovery; studies adapting existing prevention programs to different populations and audiences; and trials of new and improved treatment approaches. Focused research is also needed to help address the significant research-to-practice gap in the implementation of evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions. Closing the gap between research discovery and clinical and community practice is both a complex challenge and an absolute necessity if we are to ensure that all populations benefit from the nation’s investments in scientific discoveries. Research is needed to better understand the barriers to successful and sustainable implementation of evidence-based interventions and to develop implementation strategies that effectively overcome these barriers.
Researchers should collaborate with health care professionals, payors, educators, people in treatment and recovery, community coalitions, and others to ensure that real-world barriers, such as workforce issues and billing limitations, are taken into consideration. These collaborations should also help researchers prioritize efforts to address critical ongoing barriers to effective prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.
Consider how scientific research can inform public policy.
Effective communication is critical for ensuring that the policies and programs that are implemented reflect the state of the science and have the greatest chance for improving outcomes. Scientific findings are often misrepresented in public policy debates. Scientific experts have a significant role to play in ensuring that the science is accurately represented in policies and program.
Promote rigorous evaluation of programs and policies.
Many programs and policies are often implemented without a sufficient evidence base or with limited fidelity to the evidence base; this may have unintended consequences when they are broadly implemented. Rigorous evaluation is needed to determine whether programs and policies are having their intended effect and to guide necessary changes when they are not.