Seventeen years. According
to the Institute of Medicine, that’s the average
gap between the time a researcher publishes a new research
finding and practitioners out in the field actually put
that finding to use.
Now that gap is closing. A joint initiative by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance
Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the National Institute on
Drug Abuse (NIDA) is ensuring that professionals treating
people with substance use disorders have almost immediate
access to research results. Working together in “blending
teams,” researchers supported by NIDA and trainers
from SAMHSA’s Addiction Technology Transfer Centers
(ATTCs) are translating research into easy-to-use products.
“This is a landmark initiative,” said CSAT
Director H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., “For
the first time in history, tools describing research-based
practices are being made available at nearly the same
time that the research results are published in peer-reviewed
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Blending Research and Practice
Launched in 2001, the NIDA/SAMHSA Blending Initiative
takes place at a time when scientific advances are producing
a broad range of promising options for treating addiction,
said NIDA Deputy Director Timothy P. Condon, Ph.D.
But just because researchers discover what works in
treating addiction doesn’t mean that practitioners
know about their findings.
“If research is done and only published in peer-reviewed
journals that remain on the shelves,” asked Dr.
Condon, “does it have an impact on individuals’
The answer is “no,” said Lewis E. Gallant,
Ph.D., Executive Director of the National Association
of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD).
In fact, he added, that’s a major obstacle that
keeps practitioners from adopting evidence-based practices.
“Reading the big monographs that many researchers
produce is good if you’re a researcher, but not
if you’re trying to tease out things you can use
in your practice,” he explained. “It doesn’t
translate very well.”
Past efforts have tried to make it easy for service
providers to use evidence-based practices, but few have
succeeded, said Catherine D. Nugent, M.S., L.G.P.C.,
a senior public health adviser in CSAT’s Division
of Services Improvement.
“Ineffective methods, such as written practice
guidelines, are used to get findings from researchers
into the hands of practitioners,” she explained.
“What’s really needed is a much more sophisticated,
comprehensive approach toward helping service providers
use these evidence-based practices.”
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The Blending Initiative answers that need, said Ms.
Nugent. Each year, the initiative tackles two or three
The process begins with a group of experts—both
scientists and practitioners—who come together
to discuss NIDA-funded research and how those findings
might help fill gaps in addiction treatment.
“What we look for is something that has a solid
base of research evidence showing that it is effective,”
said Cindy L. Miner, Ph.D., Deputy Director of NIDA’s
Office of Science Policy and Communications. The group
also looks for innovations that will have a realistic
expectation of being adopted and that will have a big
impact once they are.
Most of the topics grow out of research from NIDA’s
Clinical Trials Network, an innovative partnership in
which academic researchers and community-based treatment
providers develop and refine new treatment options for
patients in community-level clinical practice.
“Since the Clinical Trials Network is the foremost
undertaking of community-oriented research, it’s
natural that results coming out of that network would
be the most likely type of findings to be applicable
in the treatment world,” said Jack B. Stein, M.S.W.,
Ph.D., formerly Deputy Director of NIDA's Division of
Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research. Dr.
Stein recently became Director of CSAT's Division of
Once a topic is selected, the next step is a “hand-off”
meeting where the researchers hand off their research
results to those whose specialty is implementation. “We
bring together the researchers and the ATTC experts to
discuss the science and the field’s needs,”
said Dr. Miner. “Then they decide what needs to
be developed to fill those needs.” Out of that
group comes a blending team that devotes the next 6 months
to developing products and activities designed for clinicians.
The final step in the blending team process is to alert
the field to the newly available products. Blending Initiative
products often debut at NASADAD meetings, explained Dr.
Miner, where they are introduced or focus-tested depending
on their stage of development. And then the ATTCs start
using the products to train the addiction treatment workforce,
so that clinicians can reap the benefits of research.
To learn more, go to www.nattc.org,
click on “About Us,” and click on “NIDA/SAMHSA-ATTC
Blending Initiative” or contact email@example.com
or 1 (816) 235-6888. Or visit www.nida.nih.gov/blending.
See Also—Blending Initiative
Blending Tools »
S.M.A.R.T. Treatment Planning »
S.M.A.R.T. Companion Products »
See Also—Next Article »
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