The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a sub-agency of the National Institute of Health, has started a new initiative it’s calling National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS). The new program aims to identify drug abuse trends around the country in an effort to facilitate a faster response time from health groups.
A five-year plan
Beginning in August 2014, NDEWS will begin a five-year development plan in conjunction with the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). In a press release, CESAR’s lead investigator, Dr. Eric Wish, pointed to the immediacy of response time as a primary benefit to the initiative. “NDEWS promises to provide the country with critically needed real-time information about changing drug use patterns in communities across the country,” said Wish.
Through the next five years, the group expects to make progress using a variety of research methods.
A social effort
NIDA’s initiative is one of the first of its kind to leverage social media in its efforts. In a press release published on nih.gov this past July, the group said NDEWS plans to establish a new virtual community of addiction experts across the United States. The experts will be instrumental in detecting drug trends using “existing surveys, various drug-related listservs and networks, and social media and web scans.”
Once trends are spotted, NIDA will dispatch a response team to “hot spots,” a term it uses to describe areas with rapid increases of emerging drug use. The experts will conduct a localized study, including anonymous drug tests that can pick up synthetic drugs. Following this kind of “boots on the ground” research, NIDA will distribute reports to the public using traditional and social media.
NDEWS’ latest initiative is a bold and innovative program that brings the conversation of addiction to the limelight. No matter what the substance is – heroin, marijuana, alcohol, synthetic drugs, etc. – addiction has the propensity to destroy lives. NDEWS’ work in early detection and subsequent health response will hopefully save some of those lives.
If you have an addiction you’re struggling with, or if you are looking for help for a loved who does, The Watershed can help: 1-800-861-1768.Tags: ASAM, national institute of health, national Institute on drug abuse, NIDA, NIH, SAMHSA