Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use remain problems in
the military, said Dr. Robert Bray, of RTI International.
“Crime and drug use go hand in hand,” said Dr. Kevin
Knight, who studies drug treatment programs for prison
APA President Dr. Melba J. T. Vazquez presents a citation
to Dr. Jack Henningfield, vice president of research
and health policy at Pinney Associates and an adjunct
professor at Johns Hopkins University.
age group except people older than 46. The military needs
more research funding to better understand the risk and
protective factors for substance abuse among the troops and
to test promising interventions, Bray said.
Prison inmates are another vulnerable group, Kevin
Knight, PhD, of Texas Christian University, told attendees.
Knight studies drug treatment programs for prison inmates.
About one in 100 U.S. adults is behind bars, he said, and
“crime and drug use go hand in hand.” About 70 percent of
state prison inmates and 64 percent of federal prisoners are
regular drug users when they come into prison; 95 percent
relapse to drug use within three years of their release, and
many end up re-arrested — in an ever-increasing loop of
costs to society.
But research shows that effective drug treatment
programs in the correctional system that are tailored to
treating offenders — such as therapeutic communities and
cognitive behavioral therapy — can help break that cycle,
The key is to convince legislators to fund those
treatments, rather than simply putting money toward
building more prisons.
To do that, psychologists and other researchers will have
to convince legislators that substance abuse interventions
in prisons and elsewhere are not only effective, but cost-effective, according to Rosalie Pacula, PhD.
“Research into cost-effectiveness should drive
policymakers,” said Pacula, a senior economist at the
RAND Drug Policy Research Center. Pacula presented
a “microsimulation” model that she and her RAND
colleagues have been working on, which aims to more
accurately estimate both the costs of drug use to society
and the potential benefits of different interventions. The
model considers the fact that drug and alcohol abuse
are “dynamic” problems — a person who is arrested, for
example, might have trouble finding a job later, which could
affect his likelihood of relapse.
Using the model, Pacula and her colleagues found
that devising an intervention that could convince kids
who were likely to use marijuana to delay that use until
age 14 (instead of age 12) could be more cost-effective
than working to increase the effectiveness of a marijuana
treatment program from 30 percent to 50 percent.
Such research would allow researchers to tell
policymakers, “this is the right thing to be doing with your
limited dollars,” Pacula said.
Protecting peer review
All too often, legislators criticize studies they see as frivolous
— even when they have passed the rigorous scientific peer-review process, said Karen Studwell, JD, senior legislative
and federal affairs officer in APA’s Science Directorate.
Looking to get headlines about saving taxpayers’ money,