NIDA has taken an important step towards improving drug abuse treatment in the United States. The Institute has awarded a total of $66 million in grants to six university research centers to begin establishing the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN). Over the next 5 years, these university centers will collaborate with a range of treatment programs in their respective communities to test, refine, and speed the application of new drug abuse treatments in community treatment settings.
The six university research centers and their community treatment partners are the first of many similar research alliances that NIDA anticipates will be established around the country in coming years. These linked centers and programs will form a nationwide infrastructure for conducting multisite trials of promising drug abuse treatments.
"The Clinical Trials Network will revolutionize drug abuse treatment and drug addiction research," says NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner. "By establishing a working partnership between researchers and practitioners, the CTN will enable us to take what we learn in the lab and put it into practice rapidly across the country. Equally important, the CTN will enable researchers to take what we learn in the clinic and use it to develop new treatment approaches."
One of NIDA's main goals for the CTN is to build the capacity to test a broad range of behavioral and pharmacological drug abuse treatments in a variety of real-life settings with diverse patient populations. Therefore, the CTN's first six university research centers and their affiliated community treatment programs include a wide array of geographic locales, treatment methods, and patient populations.
The pioneering regional research and training centers range from New England to the Pacific Coast. The centers and their principal investigators are:
- Southern New England Node
New Haven, Connecticut
Dr. Kathleen Carroll
- Delaware Valley Node
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. George Woody
- Mid-Atlantic Node
The Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, and
Medical College of Virginia
Dr. Robert Brooner
- Pacific Region Node
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Dr. Walter Ling
- Northwest Node
Oregon Health Sciences University
Dr. Merwyn Greenlick
- New York Node
New York University
New York, New York
Dr. John Rotrosen
In the first year of operation, each center will be linked to a minimum of five community treatment programs (CTPs) in its region. These 30 CTPs are located in urban, suburban, and rural settings throughout each region and serve a rich mix of patients including men and women, pregnant women, and adolescents. Patients in these programs span the social and economic spectrum and encompass a variety of racial and ethnic groups. For example, treatment programs in the Pacific Region run the gamut from the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco to the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
The CTPs also offer researchers access to outpatient and inpatient treatment settings that provide long-term methadone treatment and shorter term cognitive-behavioral and relapse prevention approaches. These programs treat patients for addiction to a variety of abused drugs including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, as well as a range of conditions that may be related to drug abuse, such as mental disorders and HIV/AIDS.
"The participating community treatment programs are very excited about partnering with researchers to implement new research-based treatment practices," says Dr. Betty Tai, who directs NIDA's CTN Office. "Practitioners at these sites have told us that being part of the CTN also will enable them to scientifically evaluate treatment ideas and modalities that they have been using," she says.
Dr. Tai will represent NIDA on a steering committee that will select promising treatment approaches from among those proposed by all the research alliances for the CTN to investigate in multisite clinical trials. Also serving on that committee will be the principal investigators from each of the six university centers and a representative from the CTPs in each of the regions.
Initially, the CTN will conduct simple large-scale trials, Dr. Tai says. Once treatment researchers and practitioners have worked together to implement standardized treatments, the CTN will then move on to conduct more complex trials of promising pharmacological and behavioral treatments. "These studies will open the door for practitioners to receive information about new science-based therapies that will help ensure timely dissemination of these therapies," she says.