National Institutes of Health grant to fund drug abuse research at UH

November 28, 2007

A center dedicated to building the multidisciplinary drug abuse research capacity of the University of Houston is the focus of a five-year, $2.3 million grant awarded to the Graduate College of Social Work's Office of Drug and Social Policy Research (ODSPR).

Funding for the initiative comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is part of the National Institutes for Health (NIH). The funds will support the creation of the Minority Institutions' Drug Abuse Research Development Program (DARDP) at UH.

"The emphasis of the DARDP is to train and mentor faculty and graduate students on the health and social consequences of drug abuse among aging minority populations and address drug abuse prevention, intervention and service research, " said Avelardo Valdez, director of the ODSPR and principal investigator of the initiative. "The institute will address drug use within the context of other related social and health problems confronting aging Latino injecting heroin users, and will contribute to improving the health of this population in the Houston area."

Focusing on developing research projects, the DARDP will collaborate with the UH Graduate College of Social Work, the Office for Drug and Social Policy Research, the Department of Sociology and other drug treatment organizations in the Houston area. In addition, the grant will fund two studies on Latino heroin use, workshops, seminars and small grants for faculty and students, and establish a peer-review ad-hoc committee that will oversee drafts of publications of new investigators.

"Substance abuse is a serious problem in the Latino community," Valdez said. "There are serious health and social consequences, such as the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne pathogens. To minimize this, we need a better understanding of the addict and addiction. Our purpose is to build more knowledge and put that knowledge into practice."

A pair of studies will focus on the heroin use of aging Latino men in Houston's near Northside and East End communities, where, Valdez says, there is a high rate of heroin use among Latinos. The first will study 225 users and look into the consequences of the addiction on their life's path, long-term health implications and community and family support. The second study will focus on the role social networks, such as family and peers, play in a lifetime of heroine use. Both studies will investigate current users, those who are in treatment and those who are not in treatment. The overall objective is to develop the capacity of UH faculty to compete for external funding, particularly at the NIH level.
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The Office for Drug and Social Policy Research was established in 2001 as a commitment to move the UH Graduate College of Social Work toward a drug research agenda. The ODSPR collaborates with many entities, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The effort also serves as a clearinghouse for publications and papers on drug research. For more information on the Office for Drug and Social Policy Research, please visit www.uh.edu/odspr/index.htm

For more information on the UH Graduate College of Social Work, please visit www.sw.uh.edu/home.php

University of Houston

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