University of Texas at Austin Social Work Researchers to Study Drug Abuse Among Patients in Trauma Centers

University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work researchers have received $3.59 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the effectiveness of trauma room screening and intervention with injured patients who have drug problems.

Drs. Mary Velasquez and Craig Field hope the research will eventually lead to reduced injuries and related health outcomes associated with drug use. They will be working with patients in the University Medical Center (UMC) at Brackenridge trauma unit.

In previously funded separate studies, Velasquez and Field found that brief alcohol interventions with patients in medical settings reduce future alcohol intake, injuries, driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and future medical costs. But there is a lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of screening and intervention for drug use. There also is little evidence on the success of this approach on HIV risk, which is strongly associated with drug use.

"We already know that a great number of patients who end up in trauma units have been drinking, and that screening and brief intervention in this setting has significant individual and societal benefits," said Velasquez, associate dean and director of the Center for Social Work Research. "This new study will tell us whether these strategies yield similar results with drug users."

Brackenridge is the only trauma hospital in central Texas and serves a large and diverse patient population, Velasquez said. She and Field hope the study will help lower future drug use, HIV related risk behaviors and illegal behavior as well as increase employment and quality of life.

The "Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for Drug Abuse in the Trauma Setting" study is funded until 2013. Co-investigators from the School of Social Work are Dr. Kirk von Sternberg, Richard Spence and Nanette Stephens. Dr. Carlos Brown, trauma medical director, will be the co-investigator at UMC Brackenridge.

When Field moved to the School of Social Work in 2008 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, he brought with him an ongoing $2.58 million study on alcohol interventions with injured patients. Research is being conducted in trauma units at Baylor University Medical Center, Methodist Hospital of Dallas and UMC Brackenridge. Field's study is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism until 2011.