RIA Is Recognized for Its Culture of Creativity, Passion and Science

Release Date: June 20, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), known for its groundbreaking research on addictive behavior in all its forms, is featured this month in the international journal Addiction as part of a series on addiction research centers and the nurturing of creativity.

The RIA is in good company. Previous issues of the journal have featured: the National Institute on Alcohol and Drug Policies in Brazil; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction; the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research in Denmark; the Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research; the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto; and the Chinese National Institute on Drug Dependence at Peking University.

The article, co-written by RIA's Gerard J. Connors, former director, senior research scientist and professor, and Kimberly S. Walitzer, deputy director, on behalf of the staff of RIA, details the history of RIA from its establishment in 1970 as a part of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene through its legislative transfer to UB in 1999.

"RIA staff is enormously honored to have been highlighted by the prestigious journal Addiction. The selection of RIA reflects an international recognition of the important research that has consistently been conducted at RIA over the past four decades." Kenneth Leonard, RIA's current director, said.

In addition to RIA's administrative history, Walitzer and Connors describe its research evolution, noting the expansion of focus -- beyond alcohol--to include use and abuse of drugs and the study of gambling behavior and pathology.

In order to address this expansion of focus, the authors point out that RIA is staffed with senior research scientists whose study activities represent disciplines ranging from behavioral neuroscience to survey epidemiology.

Leonard says that the results from RIA's studies are meaningful on multiple levels to scientists, policy makers, health care workers and health consumers. For example:

- RIA scientists have developed and tested innovative interventions for individuals with alcohol and substance use problems, as well as for a variety of specific groups with unique treatment issues, such as college students, DWI offenders and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

- RIA researchers have improved understanding of the impact of substance abuse among women both during pregnancy as well as after pregnancy. They are working with pregnant mothers who were abusing tobacco during pregnancy and looking for ways to help them quit.

- RIA research on drinking and drugs in the workplace demonstrated that 15 percent of the U.S. workforce has used or been under the influence of alcohol at work; 63 percent reported they could bring alcohol into work. From these results, RIA researchers have developed a set of recommendations for how employers can recognize substance in the workplace and effectively intervene.

- RIA's groundbreaking research on energy drinks has pointed out the often risky and dangerous behavior (binge drinking, violence, sexual assaults, drunk driving) that occurs when college-age adults consume energy drinks and mix them with alcohol.

In addition, Leonard points out that RIA has been one of UB's top recipients of federal grant awards, in excess of $108 million. Currently, RIA is holding and/or supporting 41 federal grant awards.

But this funding isn't acquired at the expense of the scientific creativity and that's what sets RIA apart, according to Walitzer.

Connors says a culture of support is evident at RIA, from the beginning of the grant application, to support of the grant-funded research, to acknowledgement of the research results.

This creative and productive environment, says Connors, is attributable to the bright, passionate scientists, the respectful collegial environment, the multidisciplinary thinking and an array of resources available to support RIA researchers.

"RIA has an administrative philosophy that buffers scientists as much as possible from bureaucracy. As a result, scientists can focus on what they do best: the development of science," he says.

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