Since its founding in the 1970s, PIRE has been committed to studying drug use and developing policies and programs that prevent use and reduce drug-related problems. Throughout PIRE’s history, substance use and abuse research has been at the forefront of our work, and our scientists and experts have been influential in helping to shape U.S. drug policy.

PIRE scientists have focused their research efforts in several areas:

Driving impairment

The use of illicit drugs while driving, including club drugs such as ecstasy, ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnol, can lead to traffic accidents. PIRE has helped train law enforcement officers to evaluate suspects believed to be under the influence of drugs, but who do not have a sufficiently high BAC to charge them with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Risk and protective factors for substance abuse

PIRE researchers have conducted multilevel and multimodal studies of drug use and prevention. We have done both primary and secondary research with a variety of populations including pregnant women, children and adolescents, high school and college students, young and emerging adults, club attendees, arrestees, and prison populations. Our goal is to identify the individual, group, and family-level factors that increase the risk of extra-medical and illicit drug use in these populations and clarify mechanisms by which drug use is maintained or suspended.

Health effects

PIRE has contributed to the drug health effects literature in several areas. Some of the PIRE research on health effects reflects direct medical consequences (e.g., exposure to HIV and HCV viruses), while other projects have increased the evidence base on indirect impacts (e.g., behavioral health costs and consequences of dependent use of illicit substances).

Special populations

As with all of PIRE’s work, much of our substance abuse research focuses on specific populations including youth and young adults, pregnant and postpartum women, and populations who experience health disparities.

Policy and enforcement

Among the law enforcement and interdiction initiatives researched by PIRE scientists is workplace drug testing. For example, in one study examining drug testing in the construction industry, we found that companies with drug-testing programs experienced a 51% reduction in injury incident rates within two years of implementation.

Prevention and treatment

In addition to prevention research focusing on demand, PIRE scientists study supply factors influencing drug use, an area sometimes overlooked in scientific research. We have conducted research examining drug price, retail availability, and social availability among other factors. PIRE’s treatment research has investigated treatment cost effectiveness, PTSD, community coalitions, and factors influencing success or failure of treatment modalities.