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New registry will explore how addicts get well

October 12, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Virginia Tech project seeks to add to limited research portfolio on recovery

Research has taught professionals a great deal about the workings of addiction and treatment, but how much does the field know beyond anecdote about the mechanics of recovery? A project formally launched last month at Virginia Tech University’s Carilion Research Institute will seek to attract a critical mass of individuals willing to tell their stories about what got them well and what has kept them well.

Warren Bickel, director of the institute’s Advanced Recovery Research Center, says the idea for the National Quit & Recovery Registry grew out of his attendance at a conference on obesity, where a patient registry in that area was referenced. Upon further research, “I saw no evidence that anyone had developed a registry in addiction,” Bickel says.

He was able to get start-up funds from his institution to launch the project, for which he believes he ultimately will need at least 2,000 recovering volunteers to achieve a meaningful database. The registry will relate the experience of individuals who have been in recovery from an addiction for at least one year or who quit a tobacco habit at least a year ago.

“I would like 10,000 [subjects],” says Bickel. Individuals will be contacted through their e-mail address over the course of the project—the initiative will not have participants’ full names. The participants will be asked questions about what substances they used in the past and how they stopped using. At some point they will possibly be asked to participate in more sophisticated research studies, which might involve financial compensation.

The effort is receiving strong support from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora Volkow, MD, who said at a Sept. 30 news conference announcing the initiative, “Most of the research that has been done up to now has focused on that immediate intervention that would allow a person to stop taking drugs. Much less is known about recovery.”

Bickel also has reached out to Faces and Voices of Recovery and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in an effort to spread the word about the project. He suspects that research into how people get well and then avoid dangerous triggers to relapse (such as during holiday times) will show what has been reported in many circles anecdotally: that there are multiple paths to and strategies for lasting sobriety.

The initiative will focus at first on adults only. Bickel hopes to add to the body of knowledge on whether certain strategies for recovery work particularly well for specific subgroups.

For more information about the National Quit & Recovery Registry, visit https://quitandrecovery.org.

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