Founded in January 2016, DPA’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) works to bridge the divide between research and effective drug policies. Too often our drug policies are driven by ideology, politics, stigma, greed, and/or racism rather than the evidence about what works. With evidence-based policy and science in general under attack at the federal level, insisting on policy grounded in scholarship and providing policymakers with the tools to access and use research is more important than ever.
The OAE works to strengthen evidence-based drug policy by:
Working collaboratively with scholars, advocates, and people directly impacted by drugs and drug policy, the OAE uses the following strategies to affect change:
Started by Princeton professor Ethan Nadelmann more than 20 years ago, DPA originated as a think tank called the Lindesmith Center, which nurtured scholars, held a number of landmark conferences, and produced key reports and materials to inform drug policy. The OAE is proud to build on this rich tradition of working closely with academics and scholars to improve drug policy in the U.S.
Too often scientific evidence seems to have little to do with how drug policy gets made. Despite a robust research base and a plethora of talented scholars working on drugs and drug policy, much of our drug policy flies in the face of both reason and research.
For scholars, there are few institutional incentives in academia in the U.S. to engage in advocacy or policy even though many people would like to play a greater role and want their research to have real-world impact. Few scholars are trained on how to communicate effectively with policymakers. Furthermore, getting research to policymakers in a timely fashion is difficult given the near glacial pace of much academic research.
Given this set of problems, we may not be able to completely bridge the policy-research divide, but we certainly can and must do more to ensure that drug policy is better informed by science and scholarship.
We need professors and researchers — policymakers need them, activists need them, and advocacy organizations need them. We need them to help rationalize drug policy and bridge the gap between the evidence about what works and current practice. It’s well past time for a more sensible drug policy grounded in research and science. Scientists and other scholars have a critical role to play.
Jules Netherland, Director, Office of Academic Engagement
Sheila Vakharia, Policy Manager
Alexandrea Hatcher, Research Associate
Following comments by a policymaker that no medical professional would ever support safe injection facilities, the OAE helped generate signatures for a sign-on letter in support of the SIF NYC campaign.
Expanding access to medical marijuana
Working with researchers who demonstrated that states with robust medical marijuana programs have significantly lower rates of opioid overdose deaths, OAE worked to get severe, chronic pain added as a qualifying condition to New York’s medical marijuana program. Researchers submitted testimony, called legislators, and published an influential op-ed on the issue. See the Compassionate Care NY Campaign for more information about medical marijuana in NY.
Opioid addiction treatment legislation
The OAE assisted Chinazo Cunningham, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, as she fought to expand access to buprenorphine treatment for opioid addiction. Working with her and key legislators, we helped pass a bill in New York eliminating the requirement to obtain prior authorization from insurance companies to prescribe buprenorphine.
In order to make sure that their research has a wider audiences, we’ve helped academics write and place op-eds in major publications nationwide. Here are a few:
Tools for researchers
Tools for policymakers and advocates
OAE event resources
Novel Psychoactive Substances Summit
White Face Black Lives Conference
Stimulant Use: Harm Reduction, Treatment, and Future Directions