The University of Florida will lead nationwide efforts to identify emerging drug abuse trends as the coordinating center for the National Drug Early Warning System, or NDEWS. The surveillance network is critical for monitoring the ongoing opioid crisis and identifying new public health threats, such as the rise in new psychoactive substances.
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the NIH, NDEWS informs health experts, researchers and the community about drug use patterns throughout the country, hot spots with high rates of drug use or drug-related morbidity and new methods of drug use through leading-edge detection methods.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a new challenge for people with substance use issues who appear to be at increased risk for COVID-19-related adverse health outcomes and may have difficulty finding care during the crisis, said Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., principal investigator for the coordinating center and a dean’s professor of epidemiology in the UF colleges of Public Health and Health Professions and Medicine. To address this, the team has received funding to add a pandemic-focused component to their research.
“Although in-person research with participants has been halted, COVID-19-focused efforts must begin now — with creative strategies that allow for immediate data to assess the impact of COVID-19 on substance use behaviors,” said Cottler, also the associate dean for research at the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., director of UF’s Center for Addiction Research and Education, is also a member of UF’s coordinating center team.