Substance use prevention research funded by the NIH

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2020 Jan 1;206:107724. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107724. Epub 2019 Nov 7.


Background: Substance use is a leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides public funding to advance understanding on the causes of substance use disorders and apply that knowledge to improve public health through research that develops new and improved strategies to prevent substance use. The purpose of this study was to characterize substance use prevention research funded by the NIH.

Methods: Leveraging a dataset of NIH-funded prevention research, we identified grants studying substance use during 2012-2017. We coded the substances and types of prevention research studied in these grants. We generated descriptive statistics and estimated trends using weighted data representing the entire NIH substance use prevention research portfolio.

Results: Approximately 2.4% of all NIH research awards focused on substance use prevention during 2012-2017, with most focused on Epidemiologic Research. Alcohol and Nicotine were the top two substance categories studied. Marijuana prevention research showed a significant upward trend in funding over time (p = 0.002). Among studies of College Students and Military/Veterans, over three-quarters focused on Alcohol. Studies of Pregnant/Port-partum Women mostly focused on Nicotine.

Conclusions: While substance use is a leading cause for morbidity and mortality, substance use prevention grants comprised a small portion of NIH's research portfolio during 2012-2017. These grants demonstrated breadth in the substances studied and the types of prevention research. Opportunities for further study are discussed.

Keywords: Alcohol; Marijuana; National Institutes of Health; Nicotine; Prevention; Substance use.

MeSH terms

  • Financing, Government / trends*
  • Health Services Research / economics*
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Research Support as Topic / trends*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States