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Substance Use

Substance use and addictions are now widely accepted as complex diseases, with a physiological as well as social and psychological basis. Research has evolved from identifying individual experiences to analysis of treatment, populations, and systemic issues. Despite this more nuanced understanding, substance use remains a stubborn problem, exacting enormous health and productivity costs, threatening family and community stability, and adding to an overburdened criminal justice system.

NORC conducts innovative research on drug treatment outcomes, dynamics of drug markets, and public perceptions of substance use, and we help organizations establish performance measures and evaluate programs.  Beginning in 1971, we partnered with distinguished psychiatric epidemiologist Lee N. Robins on the Vietnam Veterans Drug Interview Survey. This classic study arose from deep concern about widespread drug use among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam—and the problems that could arise when they returned home to a nation struggling with a growing drug culture.

The Vietnam veterans study was noted for its high response rates, sample design, and results that challenged previously held views and enabled more effective support services. NORC’s expertise with substance use expanded further with a broad array of projects and diverse populations. We have conducted local surveys on Washington drug addicts who lost social security benefits when drug addiction was eliminated as a qualifying disability, surveyed substance use and mental health disparities in the Appalachian region, and gambling addiction in California. On a national scale, we have helped develop landmark studies like the five-wave Survey of Problem Drinking Among Women—one of the first studies on the topic—the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation, and the influence of media on social risk judgments. The ongoing study, Dynamics of Methamphetamine Markets, was one of the first to consider all local stakeholders—such as dealers and users—and meshed interactive Internet-based tools with Drug Enforcement Agency file data to create a detailed, street-level understanding of the epidemic.

This rich experience means that NORC brings exceptional sensitivity and objectivity to the unique challenges of substance use research: disclosure of highly personal and often illegal behavior, impaired or compromised responses, and difficult-to-reach transient or homeless populations. This expertise, combined with our innovative capabilities and holistic, interdisciplinary view of substance use, mental health, healthcare, and criminal justice, support effective decision making for substance use issues and programs.

Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

Evaluation of the Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Projects.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project is designed to evaluate the Second Chance programs which were designed to facilitate the successful re-entry of prisoners to their communities and include strategies to reduce recidivism and subsequent criminal behavior, enhance employment and earnings, facilitate retraining, stabilize housing, and reduce the instance of substance abuse. More

Online Military SBIRT Training Program. NORC was awarded a grant from Diageo, the  world's leading premium drinks business, to develop a training system that meshes with the DOD/Army Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention (ASBI) program that will be implemented in all 91 military health clinics worldwide in 2013 and 2014. The Army's program is designed to identify military personnel whose risky alcohol use puts them, their units and their families at much greater risk of alcohol-related problems; to provide brief counseling to help them modify their risky behavior, and linkage to treatment and ongoing supports if brief counseling is insufficient.  More

Preparing Hospitals to Screen and Treat Patients with Alcohol and Drug Use Problems. NORC was asked by JBS International, a CSAT Technical Assistance Contractor, to deliver onsite technical assistance training to a select, representative sample of U.S. hospitals. Consultants will be trained in the components of SBIRT in medical and hospital settings to screen adult inpatients for issues related to alcohol consumption. Short term goals include arranging trainings for Joint Commission accredited hospitals in a small sample representative of the JC hospital population across the country.  More


Event Teen Dating Violence Intervention & Prevention, , Wednesday, February 29, 2012 More
Posted: 2.13.2012 1:38PM
Press Release Eric Goplerud to Run NORC's Department of Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Criminal Justice Studies More
Posted: 8.30.2011 6:12PM


Eric Goplerud

(301) 634-9525

Jeffrey Hackett

(312) 759-4266