Public Release: 

Rutgers awarded $6 million grant to develop innovative drug abuse prevention programs

Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, NJ - Rutgers University has received a five-year, $6 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the National Institutes of Health, to establish a center to develop innovative drug abuse prevention programs targeted to young people.

The Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center will be integrated with the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and will focus on developing methods of intervention during a student's key developmental transitional periods.

"We find that when young people move from middle school to high school and from high school to college they face an increase in the exposure to drugs and additional challenges to resist use," said Robert J. Pandina, director of the Center of Alcohol Studies and director of the new Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center. "The prevention center will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers to test new ideas, theories and methods aimed at developing novel drug abuse prevention programs."

The center's research will focus on three main areas directed by three Rutgers faculty members at the Center of Alcohol Studies:

  • Valerie Johnson, associate research professor, will oversee developing intervention programs for students during their transition from middle school to high school
  • Raskin White, professor, is responsible for developing brief intervention programs for college students, including special groups such as student athletes
  • Marsha E. Bates, research professor, will investigate how memory, learning and emotional response contribute to substance abuse behavior.

Pandina said the center, among other activities, will be working with New Jersey school districts to develop prevention programs that will utilize student peer leadership models.

"We are interested in dealing with the social challenges in adapting to a new high school environment," Pandina said. "Through the intercession of peer leaders, these incoming high school students can successfully negotiate the developmental challenges in school and will become less likely to use drugs."

The new center also will work to develop and evaluate effective brief interventions for college-age students, Pandina added. "We are beginning to recognize that risks related to drug use do not end during the high school years. Effective programs targeting students facing the hectic transition to the college environment should be part of the drug use prevention efforts of every university community," he explained.

The Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center will involve a multidisciplinary team of researchers from various Rutgers University departments, including: Erich Labouvie, James Langenbucher, Gail Milgram and Suchismita Ray from the Center of Alcohol Studies; Brenna Bry, John Kalafat, Shalonda Kelly and Charles Maher from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP); Linda Lederman and Lea Stewart from the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS); Steven Buyske from Statistics; Lisa Laitman from the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Programs for Students (ADAPS), Rutgers Health Services; and Robert Monaco and Brian Maher from Sports Medicine, a division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The center also will work with investigators from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and from other research centers in such higher education institutions as Colorado State University and the University of Washington. The center will partner with Sharon Powell and Sherry Barr, psychologists and education specialists at the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, a nonprofit organization involved in developing leadership and prevention programs for youths. The new center will include an advisory committee that involves community members, prevention scientists and public health officials from the State of New Jersey Department of Health.

"In addition to the activities in our center here, we will be part of a network of transdiciplinary centers around the country that looks to share its research in drug abuse prevention," said Pandina. "We are bringing people from various disciplines, such as psychology, education, sociology and communications, to work together in an interdisciplinary approach to developing prevention programs that work." The prevention network comprises centers located at Duke University, Oregon Social Learning Center, the University of Kentucky and the University of Southern California.

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