Racial/ethnic equity in substance use treatment research: the way forward

Kathleen Burlew, Caravella McCuistian, José Szapocznik

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Opioid use and opioid-related overdose continue to rise among racial/ethnic minorities. Social determinants of health negatively impact these communities, possibly resulting in poorer treatment outcomes. Research is needed to investigate how to overcome the disproportionate and deleterious impact of social determinants of health on treatment entry, retention, drug use and related outcomes among racial/ethnic minorities. The current commentary provides recommendations that may help researchers respond more effectively to reducing health disparities in substance use treatment. We begin with recommendations of best research practices (e.g., ensuring adequate recruitment of racial/ethnic minorities in research, central components of valid analysis, and adequate methods for assessing effect sizes for racial/ethnic minorities). Then, we propose that more NIDA research focuses on issues disproportionately affecting racial/ethnic minorities. Next, techniques for increasing the number of underrepresented racial/ethnic treatment researchers are suggested. We then recommend methods for infusing racial/ethnic expertise onto funding decision panels. This commentary ends with a case study that features NIDA’s National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN). Conclusions: The proposed recommendations can serve as guidelines for substance use research funders to promote research that has the potential to reduce racial/ethnic disparities in substance use treatment and to increase training opportunities for racial/ethnic minority researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
JournalAddiction Science and Clinical Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Drug treatment
  • Racial/ethnic disparities
  • Racial/ethnic investigator training
  • Racial/ethnic minorities
  • The National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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