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National Conference on Drug Abuse Prevention Research:
Presentations, Papers, and Recommendations


Closing Session

Closing Remarks

Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Conference on Drug Abuse Prevention Research

The work group reports have generated some noteworthy suggestions, one of which is the need for local algorithms, an issue that is also relevant to the treatment of drug abuse. NIDA will be studying this issue because we are frequently asked to provide not only mechanisms for determining local epidemiology but also mechanisms and approaches - algorithms - for conducting evaluations of the impact of local drug use prevention programs.

The issue of the fox watching the chicken coop notwithstanding, it is possible for a local project to evaluate its program's effectiveness, perhaps using different evaluation mechanisms. One does not have to be an economist to do an economic analysis; that is, there are reproducible formulae and algorithms that can help, not by turning it into a research project, but by providing useful, credible information. Therefore, NIDA will begin working on ways to provide the tools to do that. I do not know in detail what that means, but I hear the need, and we will work on that.

I was struck by the comment that "there are data and there are data," and I would remind you all that if we abuse the data, we lose our credibility. Another comment I was struck by feels similar, and that is, "There is talking and there is talking." The emerging theme about the coalitions is important. They are not just "talking"; they are doing things together and trying to find a single song to sing. Unless we do that, we are in very deep trouble.

I think we all agree that we are making tremendous progress. Without pointing out a particular place or a particular program, I was in a large city in the South with palm trees recently to attend a meeting of a well-known coalition. I was astounded, first of all, at the high level of people involved in it, and second, at the unanimity of what various groups were saying - the police, the Justice Department, the jailers, and the prevention and treatment providers. It was an overall policy thrust and policy message, and that is what we have to do. This conference marks a step in research that NIDA has been doing for many years, and I hope this conference is a major step in a direction that will continue.

There is no point in doing research unless it is going to be used. The era of knowledge for the sake of knowledge ended decades ago. Because I was trained that knowledge for knowledge's sake was good, I gave a talk one year at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an elegant talk about changing trends in the philosophy of supporting science, from the very controlled, planned science of putting a man on the moon, all the way to letting a thousand flowers bloom. And they let the thousand flowers bloom, right? It was the good old days, and everything had to be mission-focused. An older-looking man raised his hand and said, "Don't get your hopes up. I was President Eisenhower's science adviser. He wanted to put a man on the moon, too."

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