Substance Abuse Policy Research Program

An RWJF Initiative

Dates of Program: July 1994–December 2009

Field of Work: Substance Abuse Policy Research

Problem Synopsis: According to a 2001 report from researchers at Brandeis University, "There are more deaths, illnesses and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Of the more than 2 million deaths each year in the United States, approximately one in four is attributed to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use."

Synopsis of the Work: The Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP), funded investigator-initiated projects that identified and assessed policies to reduce the harm caused by substance abuse, and it worked to ensure that the understanding gained from the research would be used by decision-makers in the public and private sectors. The program's goals were:

  • To support research projects that will produce policy-relevant information about ways to reduce the harm caused by the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs in the United States.
  • To take a proactive and dynamic stance to communicating with policy-makers, and to work with funded researchers to maximize their capacity to communicate research findings to policy-makers, advocates, and the media.
  • To grow the field of substance abuse policy research by supporting senior investigators and attracting new researchers to the field.

Key Results

  • Through 12 funding rounds, SAPRP funded 363 unique projects.

    • Policy changes informed directly by SAPRP research include:
      • Implementation of the Synar Amendment to restrict youth access to tobacco
      • Broadening requirements for alcohol ignition interlocking devices by individuals whose licenses had been suspended
      • Enactment of New York City's clean indoor air laws
      • Substance abuse provisions in the welfare reform reauthorization process
    • Projects raised and addressed important questions:
      • Can primary care practices provide methadone treatment?
      • What laws work best against drugged driving?
    • Studies softened ideological rhetoric in controversial areas:
      • Providing housing for homeless alcoholics who do not stop drinking
      • Describing how much crack cocaine damaged babies in utero and what treatment was needed for them
    • Studies "changed the game" in identifying the effect of increased tobacco taxes on youth smoking.
    • Researchers produced 20 books, articles in more than 200 peer-reviewed journals and more than 1,000 publications.
    • For each RWJF dollar invested in SAPRP projects, investigators reported an additional two dollars of research support from other sources.
    • The program produced a diverse field of senior and emerging researchers focused on policy-relevant research.

“There are more deaths, illnesses and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Of the more than 2 million deaths each year in the United States, approximately one in four is attributed to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use.”

Most Requested