Nebraska Research Will Collect Rural Drug Use Data In Great Plains Over 5 Years

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July 19, 2019 - 3:55pm

A team of researchers is working on a five-year study to look at rural drug use. The research is part of the newly-established Rural Drug Addiction Research Center, or RDAR, at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.


RDAR aims to fill a gap in drug addiction data by looking at rural areas, using an $11.85 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Patrick Habecker is co-leading the Rural Health Cohort Study, which will include 600 drug users in the Great Plains region.

Habecker said they won’t just look at how prevalent drug use is – they want to understand the societal impacts.

"How people interact and how their patterns of use are influenced by other experiences in their lives and how that, in turn, influences the people that are around them and how this whole set of systems is interconnected and works together," Habecker said.

The project will begin in Nebraska, eventually expanding to include drug users in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

Habecker says there isn’t much research on rural drug use, despite some important differences compared to urban areas.

For example, people in rural areas are much more likely to abuse multiple substances – if they can’t get access to heroin, they may use alcohol instead.

Habecker says one goal is to remind the public that drug addiction is about more than just statistics: 

"People who use these substances are humans. They have the same rights as us," Habecker said. "We need to remember that and respect that as best we can."

The team is recruiting participants and plans to begin interviews in early September.

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