HSC creates Addiction Interest Group

AigAccording to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 29.5 million people aged 12 or older experienced alcohol use disorder in the previous year. In 2019, 20.4 million people in the United States were diagnosed with substance use disorders, an NSDUH survey found. More than 106,000 persons in the U.S. died from substance-involved overdose in 2021, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.

To tackle this critical health issue, The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is taking an innovative step forward. Faculty, students and staff from the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Public Health have come together to establish the Addiction Interest Group. This new entity aims to drive multidisciplinary collaborations, targeting research initiatives focused on addiction, mental health and alcohol and substance use disorders.

Inaugural meeting sets the stage for collaborative research

The group’s first meeting drew a diverse crowd of faculty, postdoctoral fellows, research assistants and students.

Dr. Luis Colon-Perez, assistant professor, pharmacology and neuroscience in the School of Biomedical Sciences, and primary organizer of the inaugural event, expressed optimism about the group’s potential.

“This newly formed entity serves as a significant platform for both faculty and students to engage collaboratively in critical research areas concerning both substance and alcohol use disorders,” he said.

Funding is a crucial focus for this multidisciplinary group, which aims to secure both state and national grants to finance research projects focusing on alcohol and other substance use.

“This initiative is especially promising given the multidisciplinary expertise already on board,” noted Dr. Dana Litt, associate professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Population and Community Health. “We hope to add professionals specializing in psychiatry to the group by developing partnerships with faculty in other departments who are credentialed in this area.”

Bridging academic silos for a unified approach

The Addiction Interest Group aims to serve as a bridge between HSC’s various academic departments. Plans are underway to explore collaborations with HSC’s new College of Nursing, the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and other areas.

“By bringing together experts from diverse fields, this initiative has the potential to drive innovative research, inform evidence-based policies and make a real difference in the lives of individuals and communities affected by these issues,” said Dr. Melissa Lewis, SPH associate dean for research and faculty advancement.

This collective approach promises to maximize the scope of research and influence, building a unified front to tackle complex issues surrounding addiction, alcohol misuse and related mental health problems. Future projects and studies will leverage this cross-disciplinary alliance, using a variety of academic lenses to examine and address these critical areas of public health.

The creation of this interest group underscores HSC’s commitment to fostering research and collaboration and signals a dedicated focus on tackling some of today’s most pressing public health issues. As the group gains momentum, it hopes to be a cornerstone in reshaping how HSC approaches addiction and alcohol-related disorders, both on campus and in the broader community.

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