Alcohol & Drug Use

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Why It Matters  |  What We Are Doing  |  Who Is Involved


Why It Matters

230 million people, or 1 in 20 adults, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in a year, according to the World Health Organization. The harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths annually. 320,000 of these deaths are in young people 15-29 – this is 9% of all deaths for that age group. At least 15.3 million people have drug use disorders, and injecting drug use is reported in 148 countries. Most of these countries also struggle with HIV infection in injecting drug users. In the U.S., alcohol and other drug use among youth remains a major public health problem.


What We Are Doing

Gillings faculty have made wide-ranging contributions to research, teaching and service around alcohol and drug use, misuse and addiction in adolescents and adults.  Read More

Families are an essential tool in preventing substance abuse among adolescents. Our faculty pioneered a groundbreaking intervention, Family Matters, which has engaged families across the U.S. in teen substance abuse prevention.  We have also studied parent’s beliefs that allowing children as young as nine to take sips of alcohol will curb their interest later on.  This is important in designing education programs aimed at parents, since in fact the opposite is true: early exposure to alcohol is a significant risk factor for problem drinking during adolescence.

Alcohol is often linked to other risk-taking behaviors, such as sexual experimentation. We’ve explored the link between alcohol misuse and risk of contracting HIV. This is an essential first step in developing targeted interventions and public health messages for people at risk for HIV.

Our work in drug misuse is not limited to illegal substances.  We’ve also worked with North Carolina’s statewide prescription drug reporting system to show that providers who use the system are able to reduce drug overuse and drug-seeking among a subgroup of patients prone to prescription drug misuse.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in alcohol and drug consumption come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students. This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in alcohol and drug consumption at the Gillings School. Please explore the individual leader descriptions to learn more about their work.