New Research Center Targets Rural Drug Addiction
Even as the rate of drug overdose deaths slows nationally, death rates in the Midwest continue to soar.
To better understand and address the region’s drug addiction crisis, Nebraska created the multidisciplinary Rural Drug Addiction Research Center, or RDAR.
The university received a five-year, $11.85 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program to establish the center in 2019. The COBRE program funds health-related research and fosters faculty development and research infrastructure.
RDAR faculty conduct cutting-edge research to understand the extent and nature of rural addiction, develop evidence-based treatment methods, and support outreach and policy efforts to help reduce addiction and overdoses.
“The patterns of drug use addiction in the Midwest are so different from those on either coast or in Appalachia,” said center director Kirk Dombrowski, John Bruhn Professor of Sociology. “This will be the only major research center in the country that focuses specifically on rural drug use in the Midwest.”
Unlike other regions, Midwestern drug users tend to consume a combination of drugs, complicating prevention and treatment.
“The patterns of drug use addiction in the Midwest are so different from those on either coast or in Appalachia.” Kirk Dombrowski
The center established the Longitudinal Network
Core Facility, which studies rural drug users through pioneering cellphone survey software developed at the university. This research helps identify social patterns of abuse and is the only long-term drug use study outside of Appalachia, Dombrowski said.
The center supports a range of research on the neuroscience and cognitive implications of drug use through pilot project funding, new faculty hires and early career faculty mentoring.
RDAR also hosted the National Rural Addiction Research Symposium. The inaugural symposium brought experts to Nebraska to discuss advancing research. It is expected to become an annual event.
To promote effective treatment options through outreach and advocacy, the center will launch a second core facility in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“Better understanding the actual psychopathology and biochemistry of addiction can help us understand other kinds of treatment options that may be available,” Dombrowski said.
The center fosters interdisciplinary collaborations across the university as well as with researchers at UNMC and Boys Town National Research Hospital.
RDAR is the university’s fifth NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.
Nebraska news release: Rural drug use is focus of $11.5M NIH Grant
Media mention: 600 rural drug abusers will be tracked by UNL researchers studying addiction, overdoses (Omaha World-Herald, 4/25/2019)
Media mention: New UNL research center to study rural Midwest drug addiction (NET News, 4/24/2019)