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The University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research

When Carl Leukefeld left the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1990 to establish the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR) at the University of Kentucky, two things influenced his change of address: Kentucky's large rural population was one strong appeal; another was UK's longstanding reputation as an authority in addiction research.

Photo of Carl Leukefeld

Today, CDAR's research into the biological, psychological and clinical aspects of drug abuse builds on and continues the university's legacy of leadership in the field, employing about 115 staff members and bringing in an average of $6.5 million in research funding annually from federal, state and local sponsors.

"We focus on drug abuse in all its aspects—services, epidemiology, treatment interventions," says Leukefeld, who is a professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences, oral health sciences, and social work at UK in addition to his role as CDAR director.

Currently, CDAR researchers are at work on 24 research projects, on topics ranging from managing a database of statewide DUI cases for the Kentucky Division of Substance Abuse, to examining the substance-abuse treatment needs of fathers who have failed to pay child support, to gathering data on treatment outcomes of everybody in Kentucky who seeks drug-abuse treatment through publicly funded treatment programs.

Though many programs are state-supported, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary source of funds for much of the center's research, Leukefeld says. In addition to the "Alcohol, Violence, and Health Services in Rural Women" grant supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the NIH funds center research on employment intervention for defendants in the drug court system, analysis of drug abuse treatment success rates of Kentucky prisoners, and a study to reduce probationers' behaviors related to HIV. In addition, last fall CDAR was awarded one of seven NIH grants nationally to establish a center to improve transition interventions for addicted inmates moving from the criminal justice system back into communities.

One of the center's largest projects is its Institute on Women and Substance Abuse, begun in 1993. The institute's goals are service-focused. It operates as a state and national resource center, working primarily to increase the number of women served in publicly funded drug- and alcohol-treatment programs across the state.

Through the Institute on Women and Substance Abuse and research like the "Alcohol, Violence, and Health Services in Rural Women" project, a significant portion of the center's work is focused on women's health as it relates to substance abuse.

For Leukefeld, that's no accident.

"I have always focused on women's issues," he says. "One of my interests is in people who are less-served or underprivileged. With drug abuse, women are always the ones who get the worst end of the deal. They're always the ones who get sucked in by somebody, usually a guy, who says, 'I want to establish a relationship with you, and by the way, I'm a drug user.'"

With the variety of projects CDAR encompasses, Leukefeld believes the center's work will have lasting impacts on the health of citizens across the state—men and women, drug users and, indirectly, non-users too.

"We're trying to develop knowledge so that we might upgrade the services and health of all people in Kentucky," he says.

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