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Introduction

Substance abuse has a major impact on individuals, families, and communities. The effects of substance abuse are cumulative, significantly contributing to costly social, physical, mental, and public health problems. In 2011, an estimated 22 million Americans struggled with a drug or alcohol problem. More than 95% of these people did not feel they needed treatment and, of those who recognized that they had a problem, 281,000 made an unsuccessful effort to obtain treatment. These estimates highlight the importance of increasing prevention efforts and improving access to treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. [Cited from Healthy People 2020 and Results From the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.]

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards grants to support a variety of research projects related to substance abuse prevention, including projects studying illicit and nonmedical prescription drug abuse and alcohol abuse. This Research Highlight on substance abuse provides a sampling of funded research activities across the NIH, examples of recent scientific advances, as well as a selection of resources from both the NIH and federal partners. For information about tobacco use, please see the Prevention Research Highlights on Tobacco Use.