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Center for Public Health and Technology to Investigate Addiction Issues with NIH Grants

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FAYETTEVILLE — Researchers at the Center for Public Health and Technology will dive deeper into a trio of addiction issues to help people, thanks to nearly $2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Page Dobbs, the Center’s acting director, “received an $800,126 K01 award from the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Regulatory Science to explore social media discussions of policy gaps, enforcement challenges and industry interference with tobacco control policies”.

Alex Russell, Associate Director of Technology for the Center, “was awarded a $735,000 grant to conduct a study to characterize alcohol use disorder and recovery-related exposures on Twitter to define key barriers to recovery, as well as facilitators, to identify targets for further intervention.

And Mance Buttram, associate director of research for the Center, “received an R21 award of $436,653 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for being the first to examine how the anticonvulsant drug gabapentin can be used for non-medical purposes. drugs in combination with a prescription.” and illegitimate opioids,” according to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The Centre, part of the university’s College of Education and Health Professions, is a “new interdisciplinary research center focused on public health, communication, health literacy and emerging media and digital technology”.

Because the Center for Public Health and Technology is so new — it really only launched last year — winning “these three grants will be really transformative for the Center, and we’re very excited about that,” Buttram said. All three have joined the center within the past two years.

“We want to reach out and engage even more with the community,” Buttram said, adding that the center exemplifies “the university’s focus on research and top scholars.”

UA-Fayetteville received the highest classification of research activity from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, earning the designation of “Research 1 – Doctoral University: Very High Research Activity”.


Dobbs will explore social media discussions of tobacco control policies to understand how people avoid enforcement through policy loopholes, the challenges people face when trying to enforce these laws, and how tobacco industries attempt to interfere with the enactment and enforcement of new tobacco laws, according to the University.

Although smoking rates have declined over the past half-century, the tobacco industry has shifted to promoting new tobacco products – such as e-cigarettes – to youth and young adults, and the E-cigarette use among this demographic has increased over the past decade. . .

Dobbs is “an expert who has worked extensively in the field, and [research produced by] this grant will be really instructive,” Buttram said. The data will help inform recommendations to the US Food and Drug Administration regarding tobacco control policies.

Examining social media platforms for this research is “really innovative,” Buttram said. Dobbs “will be able to understand in real time how the general population is chatting on these platforms and how they are doing in the real world.”


Russell’s funding is courtesy of K01, an esteemed research career development award funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health. His study, “Characterizing Alcohol Use and Recovery-Related Exposures on Social Media: Content, Cluster, and Network Analysis,” will continue through 2027.

More than 3 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 met the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder last year, and previous research has found that media use and engagement influence health behaviors, including alcohol consumption, according to the university. However, social media platforms can also encourage healthy behaviors, such as abstinence or reducing alcohol consumption.

As is the case with the Dobbs grant, Russell will provide “real-time data [from] social media and its impact,” Buttram said. “This is fascinating and important work.

Technology is a key part of the Center, as is a focus on substance abuse issues, he added. “We want to do collaborative and meaningful research.”


The results of Buttram’s study, “An Examination of Concomitant Non-Medical Use of Gabapentin and Opioids,” will help prescribers and substance use disorder treatment providers understand how gabapentin is used in “real world” environments and then developing screening tests accordingly, he said. . .

Limited data shows that gabapentin is used by people with opioid use disorder to potentiate the euphoric effects of opioids, but at the same time the data also shows that gabapentin is used to treat them -even the symptoms of an opioid use disorder and the physical pain experienced by people who use drugs,” he said.

Buttram, currently the principal investigator for a national study monitoring prescription drug diversion – the illegal distribution or abuse of prescription drugs or their use for purposes not intended by the prescriber – has focused on gabapentin for several years since he learned from law enforcement that they had seen more and more reports of gabapentin being diverted, he said.

Although it can treat conditions such as epilepsy, some people use it to potentiate the euphoric effects of opioids, to treat pain themselves, or to relieve withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use.

“We are interested in the combined use of gabapentin,” he said, adding that the data from respondents should be reliable, as the information will be gleaned from people in treatment for use disorders. of substances. These “people are very open and honest, they are used to providing information, and many want to help advance science and [assist] others” by sharing their experiences.