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NIDA. (2004, April 1). Blending Research and Practice: CTN Update. Retrieved from

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April 01, 2004
Barbara Shine

What is the best way to ensure that new drug abuse treatments--the fruits of long-term basic and applied research--are adopted quickly for the benefit of patients in community-based treatment settings? This is one of the major questions NIDA sought to answer when it launched the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) nearly 5 years ago.

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The first CTN grants, awarded in September 1999, funded six research and treatment consortia, known as "nodes," each consisting of a Regional Research and Training Center (RRTC) and a group of 5 to 10 allied Community Treatment Programs (CTPs). The CTN grew rapidly through its second and third years, and today the network includes 17 regional nodes.

RRTCs are all university-based research institutions that have made important contributions to our knowledge of what works in drug abuse treatment. CTPs are prominent treatment programs in a variety of settings within each region. CTP patients represent a broad spectrum of social and economic groups as well as racial, ethnic, age, and gender characteristics. This makes it possible for the CTN to test the effectiveness of medications, behavioral treatments, and combination therapies with diverse populations in a variety of settings--from outpatient clinics to intensive residential treatment programs.

The CTN model is unique in that established researchers and clinicians collaboratively design trials to ensure that interventions to be tested are practical and sustainable. CTP staff members perform the interventions under investigation, another noteworthy feature of the CTN model.

"To date, more than 2,500 patients have taken part in 12 CTN clinical trials of drug abuse treatments, and another 11 trial protocols are now in development" says Dr. Betty Tai, NIDA's Director of the Center for the Clinical Trials Network. "And we're excited about results from the earliest trials, which will be released soon."

The CTN model is unique in that established researchers and clinicians collaboratively design trials to ensure that interventions to be tested are practical and sustainable.

The first CTN trials studied such treatment approaches as use of buprenorphine for opiate detoxification and motivational enhancement treatment to improve treatment engagement and outcomes. These nearly complete trials have established the effectiveness of the CTN model for conducting research and will provide valuable findings to treatment programs deciding which interventions to adopt.

Some of the newest trials, which are now recruiting patients, include studies of a treatment tailored for women with co-occurring substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder and an approach to training unemployed drug-dependent patients in job-seeking skills. Trial protocols recently submitted to NIDA for approval would address treatment approaches such as family management skills training, 12-step facilitation, and management of depression that co-occurs with drug dependence. CTN researchers and practitioners are continually generating concepts that could be developed into future trial protocols.

More detailed information on the CTN, its research studies, and the network of participants is available on NIDA's Web site at, which features user-friendly Web pages and brochures for clinicians and the public. CTN updates will be featured in future issues of NIDA NOTES.