Warning system will enable public health responses to illicit drug use

A new warning system will help to detect illicit drug use around the country to allow for "rapid, informed and effective" public health responses, the National Institutes of Health announced this week.

The University of Maryland's Center for Substance Abuse Research will create the National Drug Early Warning System with help from five years of funding from the NIH. The system will provide information on illicit use of drugs in very specific areas in the U.S.

"By monitoring trends at the local level, we hope to prevent emerging drug problems from escalating or spreading to surrounding regions," National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow.

The new warning system, according to NIH, will create a virtual community in the form of a network of addiction who will communicate with each other to:

  • Detect emerging drug trends using national and local data sources
  • Dispatch a rapid response team at hot spots--local areas with reported rapid increases in emerging drugs
  • Disseminate information to the public using traditional and social media, websites, publications and newsletters

Drug use data is also being developed to prevent doctor shopping, including a database by New York state that cut doctor shopping by 75 percent.

In addition, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT also started a program last year to create a common technical standard allowing prescription drug monitoring programs to share data with health IT tools used by providers.

NIH is a big proponent of big data, and this is not the only recent initiative from the organization. In March, it announced its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative--which is working to enable biomedical scientists to use big data more fully. 

To learn more:
- read the announcement