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NIDA. (1998, April 2). New Help Available for Communities to Assess Local Drug Problems. Retrieved from

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April 02, 1998

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, today released a new guide to help communities determine the nature of their local drug problems. Speaking at a Town Meeting in Boston, MA, Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA, said, "The only way a community can effectively deal with its drug problems is to start by determining exactly what it is confronting and then tailor its strategies to its own particular situation. This science-based guide provides strategies to assess local drug abuse patterns and trends, and especially emerging problems. It will allow communities to do a better job of focusing their efforts at preventing and reducing drug use in their own local environment."

The new guide, Assessing Drug Abuse Within and Across Communities, is an 80-page tool for communities to detect, quantify, and categorize the local drug abuse problem. Information generated through this assessment can be used to alert prevention, treatment, and public health officials as well as the general public, so that timely action can be taken.

"Drug abuse and addiction can have a devastating impact on a community. This guide will provide the tools communities need to determine the extent of the drug problem locally, including identifying changes as new drugs become available or new combinations become popular, and as users experiment with new ways of administering drugs. Being able to identify the drug problem is the first step toward solving it," said Dr. Zili Sloboda, Director of NIDA's Epidemiology and Prevention Research Division.

The guide explains the use of community epidemiology surveillance networks for drug abuse, why they are needed, and describes how a community can establish such a network. It then provides extensive information about organizing and interpreting data from different sources, including: drug abuse treatment data, medical examiner and coroner data, law enforcement data, HIV/AIDS data and data from State and local drug abuse surveys. It also provides a number of exhibits of data collection efforts done by various States and cities as well as an appendix of resources to assist in the local assessment.

The guide is based on the work of NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group, a national surveillance network that for the last 20 years has monitored drug use and abuse patterns and trends in major cities throughout the U.S. The model used in the guide has been successfully applied in many States, and by countries and regions internationally.