2017 Summer Congressional Briefings Highlight Substance Use Research

Capitol Hill events focus on women’s drinking and preventing opioid use disorders

This summer, the American Psychological Association’s Science Government Relations Office organized two congressional briefings related to issues of substance use disorders. Both briefings made the findings of NIH funded substance use disorders research accessible to Congress and the broader policy and research communities.  Each was hosted by a coalition in which APA is an active member: one by the Friends of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the other by the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

On June 22, 2017, the Friends of NIAAA coalition held a briefing entitled "The Changing Patterns of Women’s Drinking and Their Impact on Public Health" in cooperation with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. The Director of NIAAA, George Koob, PhD provided a broad overview of NIAAA's research portfolio on the characteristics and patterns of alcohol use in women.

From left to right: George F. Koob, PhD, Deidra Roach, MD, Barbara McCrady, PhD, Martha Woodroof, and Carlo DiClemente, PhD. 

From left to right: George F. Koob, PhD, Deidra Roach, MD, Barbara McCrady, PhD, Martha Woodroof, and Carlo DiClemente, PhD. 

Deidra Roach, MD, a Medical Project Officer in the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at NIAAA, discussed why we are seeing a rise in binge drinking among women around the world, as well as presented data on the medical consequences of excessive alcohol use in women and on alcohol use during pregnancy. Next, Barbara McCrady, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions at the University of New Mexico, discussed the barriers women face when seeking treatment and the unique needs of women in treatment programs. Finally, writer and public radio host, Martha Woodroof, told stories of her life and her 26-year recovery from alcohol use disorder. Over 60 people attended the event and the briefing stimulated many excellent questions and answers moderated by Friends of NIAAA Chair, Carlo DiClemente, Ph.D.

 On July 25, 2017, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse coalition held a briefing entitled “Preventing Opioid Use Disorders: Community Based Approaches that Work” in cooperation with the Congressional Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus, the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. The Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Wilson Compton, M.D., M.P.E., discussed how social environment shapes the development of the brain and how adverse childhood experiences increase the likelihood of illicit drug use later in life. He presented evidence that early childhood intervention can prevent opiate misuse later in life, and provided examples of prevention programs that have been effective.

From left to right: Wilson Compton, MD, MPE, Kathy Collier, Richard F. Catalano, PhD, and Richard Spoth, PhD.

From left to right: Wilson Compton, MD, MPE, Kathy Collier, Richard F. Catalano, PhD, and Richard Spoth, PhD.

Richard F. Catalano, Ph.D., professor at the University of Washington and the co-founder of the Social Development Research Group, presented federal spending data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to illustrate that federal funding for prevention programs has remained low compared to spending on law enforcement and treatment.  He also shared recommendations for scaling effective prevention programs and policies. Senior Prevention Scientist and the Director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University, Richard Spoth, Ph.D., demonstrated the value of expanding evidence-based prevention programs. He provided an analysis of the reduction in both economic and societal costs that occur when effective prevention programs are implemented. Kathy Collier is a Prevention Program Director and the Chair of the Pennsylvania Coalition Advisory Workgroup. She presented on the efforts and success of the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services. Her experience working on the ground in communities enabled her to offer a unique perspective on prevention approaches. Nearly 120 congressional and federal agency staff, professional society representatives and others attended the session, underscoring the keen public interest in preventing opioid use disorders and combating the opioid epidemic

For more information about these events and APA’s science advocacy, please contact Geoff Mumford, PhD, Associate Executive Director for Government Relations in the APA Science Directorate.