Back to Graphic Version | SAMHSA News Home

SAMHSA News - September/October 2006, Volume 14, Number 5


Initiative Blends Research & Practice

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 journals.”


"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 . . . "


—H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director,   
SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment   

Back to Top

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’ lives?”

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.”

Back to Top

Translating Research

The Blending Initiative answers that need, said Ms. Nugent. Each year, the initiative tackles two or three topics.

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 Services Improvement.

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 no@nattc.org or 1 (816) 235-6888. Or visit www.nida.nih.gov/blending.

Back to Top

Back to Graphic Version